Haifa Al Mansour
This March, Saudi Arabia saw its first movie at the cinema in almost 4 decades, following the lifting of the cinema ban in December 2017, as well as the establishment of its new national film organization, the Saudi Film Council, in order to encourage a wider platform for the kingdom’s creative talents. The Saudi Film Council will be supporting its first ever production, by none other than award winning female Saudi director, Haifa Al Mansour.
Titled The Perfect Candidate, the upcoming movie tells the story of a young female doctor with political ambitions within a patriarchal society, who takes on the monumental task of running for municipal office in her father’s absence. The Saudi production will be co-produced by Al Mansour Productions, and Berlin’s Gerhard Meixner and Roman Paul of Razor Film Produktion (who also aided Mansour’s movie, Wadjda) and shot in Riyadh this September.
Haifa Al Mansour has been known to be a trailblazer in her own right and has continued to smash those proverbial glass ceilings. In 2012, she made history with her groundbreaking film, Wadjda as the first ever female Saudi film-maker. Wadjda is a film about a young Saudi girl who wants to ride a bike but isn’t allowed, and not only did the movie touch on such controversial topics such as gender equality, it was also the first feature length film to be shot solely in Saudi Arabia. There were many firsts for Wadjda and another was that it was the first production from the kingdom to be submitted for Academy Awards consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
Although Wadjda didn’t win an award at the Oscars, it did win a number of awards at many international film festivals, including, the Muhr Arab Award at the Dubai International Film Festival and the CinemAvvenire, C.I.C.A.E., and Interfilm Awards at the Venice International Film Festival.
Al Mansour spoke about how shooting her new production, A Perfect Candidate, will be different from her previous experiences shooting in Saudi, under the new reforms and how it is important for new movies to be shot in Saudi Arabia. “When I started making films — I started in 2005, when my first short came out — people didn’t believe in cinema in Saudi Arabia,” she told AFP. “But Saudi Arabia has changed. It will be wonderful to be part of the evolution of film in the country. It is very important to make films there, especially with Saudi Arabia embracing films and allowing film theaters”.
Haifa Al Mansour is one of three women on the 13 member board of the General Authority for Culture, which will oversee artistic development in the kingdom.