Haifaa Al-Mansour’s ‘The Perfect Candidate’ Is First Pic Backed by Saudi Film Council

Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “The Perfect Candidate,” a comedic drama about a young female physician who maneuvers through her conservative, male-dominated society to run in municipal elections, will be the first film supported by the Arab kingdom’s new national film organization, the Saudi Film Council.

“Candidate” will be produced by the director’s own Al Mansour Productions in Saudi Arabia and by Gerhard Meixner and Roman Paul’s Berlin-based Razor Film Produktion. They have described the film as a somewhat ironic look at the new developments in Saudi Arabia caused by women being allowed to contest local elections.

The film’s Saudi protagonist is frustrated after being turned back at the airport because her travel permission from her male guardian isn’t up to date. She then embarks on an absurd campaign that juggles strict social norms, gender segregation and the influence of her eccentric family, according to the film’s synopsis, which was written by Al-Mansour.

The co-production was negotiated by UTA Independent Film Group, which will handle sales in North America. Germany’s The Match Factory will handle sales internationally. Al-Mansour will direct from a script she wrote with Brad Niemann. Filming is expected to start in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, by mid-September.

Razor Films produced “Wadjda,” Al-Mansour’s breakout feature, about a rebellious Saudi girl who wants to ride a bicycle in her country, where that is not allowed. The movie was released by Sony Pictures Classics in the U.S. after launching from the Venice Film Festival in 2012, and was Saudi Arabia’s first foreign-language Oscar entry.

Since then, Al-Mansour has shot English-language drama “Mary Shelley,” based on the life of “Frankenstein” author Mary Shelley, starring Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth.

She is one of three women on the new 13-member board of the General Authority for Culture which will oversee cultural and artistic development in Saudi Arabia. She is repped by UTA, Anonymous Content and Loeb & Loeb.

Meanwhile, in separate news, it emerged Thursday that Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” is due for release in Saudi Arabia soon. Cameron Mitchell, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas, which owns and operates the Vox chain of theaters now operating in Saudi Arabia, said during a panel in Cannes that the animated pic will be censored for release in the country but did not specify what types of cuts Saudi censors have made.

Saudi Arabia, which until recently banned cinemas for religious reasons, currently has five active movie screens.

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