After making waves at the Venice Film Festival in 2012, Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour is at it again this year, with yet another movie that’s a salute to the determined female spirit in the Kingdom.
When it came to casting the protagonist in The Perfect Candidate, the trailblazing director picked young Saudi actress Mila Alzahrani. And while the rising TV star has already garnered attention as a boxing champion in the Saudi drama Boxing Girls, her performance in Al-Mansour’s newest film has a global spotlight shining on her.
Alzahrani plays Mayram, a determined, fearless young woman who establishes her own identity. An overworked doctor at an under-resourced clinic, she decides to run for a seat on the municipal council. Working towards the initial aim of getting essential road repairs made outside the clinic so patients can be brought into the ER safely, Maryam has to start defending herself and tackle all the sexism and gender-based obstacles along the way. For example, she is unable to show her face in her campaign videos and can’t directly address the male voters at a rally in a tent.
Newcomer AlZahrani has received some great reviews for her fiery and headstrong performance as the female doctor causing consternation while she endeavours to be a champion for women and the whole community.
“Mila Alzahrani lends Maryam a snappy hands-on idealism that is a delight to watch blossom, whether it’s a matter of marching to attach an unplugged cable for a technician or dressing down a disrespectful audience of uppity men. Her fearless candidacy for office in an all-male world may be a cinematic fantasy, but it does open an interesting door on an evolving society,” The Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young wrote.
Alzahrani, who was in Venice for the film’s premiere, has said how honoured she is to have worked on the film. She shared a video on her Instagram from the press conference at the festival. “I am happy to be here as a Saudi at the Venice Film Festival and stand on the red carpet as the heroine of The Perfect Candidate,” she wrote. “It is the only Arab film nominated for the award and has won the admiration of the most prominent international critics. We are very proud of this achievement.”
The up-and-coming actress looked stunning while she hit the red carpet alongside Al-Mansour and Dhay, another brilliant Saudi actress who plays Selma, the proud sister helping Mayram achieve her goals.