2012 was a huge year for Saudi director Haifaa Al Mansour. With the release of her drama Wadjda, the filmmaker not only became the first director to shoot a film in the conservative kingdom, but she also became the first female Saudi director.
This year, the director is making history once again—this time for being selected to direct the first film to be backed by the newly formed Saudi Film Council.
The council is Saudi Arabia’s first film organization. Established in March 2018, the institution was created in a bid to develop and support the film industry in the kingdom. Its formation comes after the Kingdom recently lifted its 35-year ban on cinema, following a list of progressive reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, after which the nation saw its first public film screening, which marked the beginnings of a soon-to-be thriving industry.
Production for Al Mansour’s upcoming film—titled The Perfect Candidate—is set to start in Riyadh this September. And unlike her experience shooting Wadjda (where the director was forced to direct from a distance via walkie-talkie in order to abide by the nation’s strict regulations on gender-mixing), this time Al Mansour will be right by her crew, directing on site.
Ironically, Al Mansour’s The Perfect Candidate holds a mirror to the conservative kingdom’s society. The film is centred around the story of a young female doctor with political aspirations—who then decides to run for office in the municipal election while her father goes away on a trip.
The film covers topics ranging from patriarchy, societal norms and gender segregation, and is set to be a celebration of the new changes happening in the Kingdom, especially in regards to women’s rights and the revival of a creative scene.