Cairo based Tunisian film and TV star Hend Sabri debuted as an executive producer for her Netflix Original mini series “Finding Ola” (where she reprises her role as the widely beloved Ola Abdel-Sabour; a character she played 12 years ago in groundbreaking social drama “I Want to Get Married” (Ayza Atgawez), but now the character is in her 40s dealing with taboo subjects of toxic family structures, mid life crisis’, ageism, double standards and gender inequality.
In Finding Ola, the viewer learns alongside the heroine how to navigate divorce, rediscover yourself, and realize that it’s never too late to start over. Hend Sabri made sure not to sugar-coat family conversations in this show, she hits our community where it hurts and criticizes the toxicity of cultural Arab discourse. “For women, their 40s is the toughest decade” says Sabri in an interview with Variety Magazine, “Kids are still young, they still need you but you are still young enough to aspire for things in life, but you have less energy because of how segmented your life is.” She goes on to say that “it’s very tough for any woman, anywhere in the world. But even more so in the Middle East because of all our traditions”. Women are often seen as the guardians of these traditions and are responsible for transmitting them to the next generation, however, “breaking a generational cycle is very rare in our region, especially by a woman, it’ll always be perceived negatively” she states.
Finding Ola is successful in challenging these notions in a humorous, lighthearted way that is also extremely relatable and laugh-out-loud funny. Shows like these are important, especially in the MENA regions. It not only offers real Arab representation, but also a magnifying glass into the problematic sides of ourselves and society. It’s time to start having conversations around taboo subjects within our communities to keep up with our ever changing world in order to create a safer, and healthier place for our future generations.
The actress’s performance in the feminist Tunisian film Noura’s Dream, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2019 won her the Best Actress award at the El Gouna Film Festival. She was also the first Arab woman to have a seat in the judging panel at the Venice Film Festival. Besides her acting work in Egyptian films, Sabri has also founded her own production company “Salam” - which she used to executively produce “Finding Ola”. Besides her work in Egyptian films and media, Sabri who is also trained lawyer, identifies as a feminist and is extremely active when it comes to humanitarian work. She is a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), and was awarded the WFP Nobel commemorative pin and certificate in 2021 in recognition of her dedication and service.
Hend Sabri has not only paved the way for women in the MENA film and TV industry, but continuously advocates for women globally. We hope to see more women participating in similar acting and directorial roles in the industry and beyond while getting the recognition they deserve.