“MTV True Life Presents: Resist The Power! Saudi Arabia”

MTV’s Emmy Award-winning series “True Life” teamed up with Emmy and Academy Award nominated directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (LOKI FILMS) to conclude the season with the premiere of an eye-opening, 90-minute documentary, “True Life Presents: Resist the Power! Saudi Arabia” aired Monday, May 24th, 2010.  The special takes viewers into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and the largest producer of oil, where the sexes are separated, marriages are arranged, and women must wear long, black robes called abayas in public.  MTV cameras captured unfiltered footage as young people told four stories of rebellion from inside one of the world’s strictest societies, and as they fought to follow their dreams regardless of the consequences

“This ‘True Life’ documentary is a great example of what the series does at it’s best – it uncovers stories of young people’s lives that, otherwise, our audience may never be exposed to,” said Dave Sirulnick, Executive Vice President of MTV News and Docs.  “The special explores a culture quite different from what we experience in the West – one where women are forbidden to drive, single men can’t enter the mall unless they are accompanied by a female family member as their guardian, and bands struggle to find venues that will allow them to play rock music.  Despite stark cultural differences, the stories of these young Saudis who embody the courage, strength and perseverance to inspire change, should resonate with young audiences everywhere.”

The young people featured in “True Life Presents: Resist the Power! Saudi Arabia” are fighting for change within the country, where they face being ostracized for living outside of cultural and religious norms.  In the documentary, a young man struggles against society’s view of marriage and relationships in hopes of arranging a face-to-face meeting with a young woman he met online, even though authorities forbid it; a rock band strives to play the music they love publicly, a risky step that could land them in jail and get their music censored forever; a 22-year old risks his own freedom by openly demanding that women are given a voice in government; and a young woman makes brightly colored abayas for women to wear, provoking the harsh judgment her conservative society.

The documentary series aired raw, private scenes, giving unique perspective and insight into what it’s like to be a young person. “True Life,” explored topics relevant to young people by telling their stories through first-person accounts and delves into issues on cultural trends covering matters relating to lifestyle subjects such as health, sex drugs, spirituality, money and more.

 

“Most surprising among the cast, is the lovely Fatima, age 20, who advocates for women to be treated equally and, as a way to effect change, wears colored abayahs (cover ups), which she designs, manufactures and sells to other women who are brave enough to break with the male-imposed tradition of wearing conservative, politically correct black. There is also the heavy metal rock group who can’t find a local venue where they can play and dream of going abroad to perform, and a love sick young man who thinks he’s met his life’s partner on line but can’t find a way to see her in person, and the politically estute pacifist activist who patiently lobbies the male-only Jeddah civic government to allow women to attend council meetings. All of the characters are appealing and their plights understandable. Futhermore, they are all well-to-do, well-educated and have the potential to influence the social and political realities of Saudi Arabia. Someday. Maybe.”

Saudi Arabia’s religious police are trying to bring to court three Saudi youths for challenging the kingdom’s austere lifestyle on an MTV reality show — a new test of the country’s stated commitment to reform.

An official at the Jeddah court confirmed the filing of the lawsuit for the crime of “openly declaring sin” and said it would take at least one week for the Islamic Sharia court to decide whether to proceed with a trial or dismiss the case. The Saudi judiciary system, based on an austere reading of Islamic sharia law, reserves harsh punishments for such offences that could involve lashes with whip and years of imprisonment.

“We are not free to live as we like,” said Aziz, one of the youths who appeared on the MTV show. The episode showed how he tries to meet his girlfriend for a date, a risky endeavor in the kingdom. “I feel great solace when I talk to her.”

It is the second time in a year that Saudis got into hot water for appearing on foreign television. In fact, Mazen Abdul-Jawad was sentenced last year to five years in jail, 1,000 lashes and a five-year travel ban after he bragged about his sexual exploits on a TV show aired by Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC).

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