In honour of Mental Health Awareness Month, we’ve rounded up representations of mental health in Arabic film and television. This on-screen representation is critical, not just for increased awareness of mental health needs, but for youth and other individuals who are hoping to feel seen. From AlRawabi School for Girls to the Arabic remake of Perfect Strangers, here are some of the best on-screen moments for mental health awareness in Arabic entertainment.
AlRawabi School for Girls
This Jordanian series was a runaway success with its international debut on Netflix. AlRawabi School for Girls depicts a revenge plot driven by a teenager named Mariam, portrayed by Andria Tayeh. After falling victim to a triage of elite school bullies, Mariam vows to take them down one by one. She teams up with two other classmates and targets each of the girls with a vicious vengeance. From alienation to becoming your own worst enemy, this show excels at portraying the psychological hurdles of being a teenager. It reminds us that school bullying is a serious issue that follows the victim home, offering no respite from the abuse. As good as fighting fire with fire might feel in the moment, dealing with trauma from bullies with a counsellor is a more productive long-term solution.
Watch the trailer AlRawabi School for Girls here.
This film is Haifaa al-Mansour’s debut picture and the first feature film made by a Saudi Arabian female director. Wadjdais follows a rebellious young girl named Wadjda, portrayed by Waad Mohammed, who chases her dreams of buying a bike to race her friend Abdullah. Since girls are discouraged from cycling in her community, Wadjda must use her smarts to overcome the hurdles of obtaining the bike. This story is an important reminder of how critical dreams and a sense of achievement are for children who are developing a sense of self. Moreover how children’s emotional well-being is impacted by their social environment.
Watch the trailer for Wadjda here.
This smash-hit film was internationally released on Netflix in January 2022, becoming the first Arabic Netflix Film. Perfect Strangers is a familiar story (adapted 18 times since its original release) following a group of seven friends who come together for a dinner party. They decide to play a game that consists of everyone putting their phone in the middle of the table and when a notification sounds off they have to share what it is with the group. This game turns the dinner party upside down when the guests realise that each of them has something to hide. The film excels at conveying how complicated adulthood is as each person’s secrets and anxieties are revealed; reminding us of how often-overlooked mental health is when it comes to adults.
Watch the trailer Perfect Strangers here.