A strong-willed young girl faces the wrath of her community in “Scales.” Filmed in Oman, Shahad Ameen’s black-and-white feminist parable tells the story of Hayat (Basima Hajjar), whose poor fishing village demands that every family sacrifice one daughter to the mermaid-like sea creatures who live below their waters in exchange for being allowed to continue to fish.
“Girls like you belong to the Sea Maiden,” Hayat is told in a new trailer for the film. Hayat’s father has refused to give her up — a decision that leads to their community treating the girl like a curse. “Give yourself to the sea,” she’s urged. But Hayat has other plans for her future.
“I have always wanted to explore the Gulf region and its varied cultures and stories. I also wanted to tell a story that is set in a magical world yet deals with real issues,” Ameen told us. “I stumbled on the story of the ancient Syrian goddess Atargatis, a strong mermaid who became my inspiration. It led me to the idea that independent women get cast away in traditional societies. After exploring this theme in my short film [“Eye & Mermaid”], I expanded upon it [in “Scales”], examining the role of women in society, and what happens when women choose to embrace different roles.”
The writer-director added, “I want the audience to relate to the main themes of the film: life and women’s roles within it. Although the film is set in the Arab world, this is a universal story that everyone can relate to.”
“Scales” premiered at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, where it won the Verona Film Club Award. The dystopian story was selected as Saudi Arabia’s Official Oscar entry for Best International Feature Film at the 2021 Academy Awards, marking the country’s fourth ever submission. Its first was Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “Wadjda” in 2013.
You can catch “Scales” in theaters in NY and LA July 9. A national rollout will follow.