Prominent Saudi Arabian filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour received a standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival during the premiere of her film, The Perfect Candidate. The inspiring director is behind the only Arab film nominated at the 76th edition of the oldest film festival in the world. Another reason Al-Mansour, the Kingdom’s first female director, is making waves at the annual film extravaganza is that she has pulled off the feat of being one of only two female directors in the main 21-film competition.
Always forthright about female empowerment in the Kingdom, the trailblazer was seen on the red carpet with Mila Alzahrani, the Saudi Arabian actress who plays the lead part in the film. Dhay, who stars as her sister, Selma, was also there for support.
The Perfect Candidate is about a young female doctor, Maryam, who challenges the patriarchal system by running as a candidate in municipal elections. Fittingly, the film, which sees her tackling gender-based obstacles as she tries to win a tight race against a male opponent, starts with the protagonist driving a car. Al-Mansour, who broke barriers with the 2013 Wadjda, a movie about a 10-year-old girl who wants to defy the rules and ride a bicycle, believes the film will be shown in her homeland. In her director’s note, the LA-based movie maven, who joined the Kingdom’s General Authority for Culture in 2018, wrote that the film hints at the need to celebrate and honour the country’ strong cultural and artistic traditions and to let them channel efforts to develop and reform the country.
Dhay, Haifaa Al Mansour and Mila Alzahrani
The director, who made history when Wadjda became the first Saudi film submitted to the Academy Awards, has said The Perfect Candidate also champions individualism. “We all dress [the] same — the men dress the same, the women dress the same,” Al-Mansour told Variety. “It’s, like, tribal. And individualism is something that we need to cultivate and that we really need to start building.”