Haifaa Al-Mansour's 'Perfect Candidate' Becomes First Film to Get Saudi Council Funding

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Haifaa Al-Mansour

UTA Independent Film Group secured the financing, with the 'Wadjda' helmer also set to receive backing from German public funds and television for the film being shopped in Cannes.

UTA Independent Film Group has secured financing from the Saudi Film Council for client and Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour for her next movie, The Perfect Candidate.

The move is significant given that it marks the council’s first film in its slate and signals that female directors will, indeed, be supported by the General Culture Authority of Saudi Arabia as will movies with progressive themes. The Wadjda helmer also will receive backing from German public funds and television.

The Perfect Candidate tells the story of a young female doctor who runs for municipal office while her father is off touring the country with the reestablished Saudi National Band, which had been banned under law prohibiting public music performances. The plotline appears to applaud women’s ambitions in politics while celebrating Saudi’s lost arts and the return of music to its small towns. Similar to Al-Mansour’s own enterprising nature, the drama’s protagonist is prompted to disrupt the societal constructs that permeate her conservative, male-dominated culture.

Al-Mansour co-wrote the script with Brad Niemann. Filming is expected to start in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, by mid-September.

“I believe that change must ultimately be sustained and driven by the people who are most in need of improvements and increased mobility in their daily lives," said Al-Mansour. "I want to help lead this positive change by telling a story that is full of hope and celebrates the power of resiliency and hard work. I want to encourage Saudi women to seize the moment, to take a chance, and break away from the system that for so long has held us back.”

Al-Mansour made history in 2012 with Wadjda, which became the first full-length feature to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the only feature-length film made in the country by a female director.

Following the success of Wadjda, Al-Mansour has shot two other features including Mary Shelley, based on the late Frankenstein author, and Nappily Ever After, based on the book by Trisha R. Thomas.

Al-Mansour is repped by UTA, Anonymous Content and Loeb & Loeb.

The Perfect Candidate will be produced by Al Mansour Prods. in Saudi Arabia and Gerhard Meixner and Roman Paul of Razor Film Produktion in Berlin. UTA will handle sales in North America. The Match Factory is representing the film internationally at the Cannes market.

A version of this story appears in The Hollywood Reporter's May 11 daily issue from the Cannes Film Festival.