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Saudi Director Haifaa Al Mansour Set for ‘The Perfect Candidate’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 5/23/2017 Nick Vivarelli

Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour, who with “Wadjda” became the first female filmmaker in of her country, is set to return to Saudi Arabia to shoot “The Perfect Candidate,” a drama with comedic elements about a young female physician who maneuvers through her conservative, male-dominated society to run in the municipal council elections.

Shooting on the Arabic-language pic is expected to start in Saudi Arabia in the second half of 2018, said producers Roman Paul and Gerhard Meixner, whose Berlin-based Razor Films produced “Wadjda.”

They described “The Perfect Candidate” as a somewhat ironic look at the new developments in Saudi Arabia caused by women being able to be elected on a local political level.

The film’s Saudi protagonist is frustrated after being turned back at the airport because her travel permission from her male guardian wasn’t up to date, so she embarks on an absurd campaign, balancing strict social norms, gender segregation and the influence of her eccentric family, according to the film’s synopsis written by the director.

“It’s quite funny,” said Paul. “It has Haifaa’s sense of humor, this time a bit more [than “Wadjda”],” he added.

Plans are for the film, with a local cast, to shoot in the second half of 2018 “when it’s not too hot down there, because temperature is an issue,” the producers said.

They are in talks for a sales agent to come on board the project, which is sparking plenty of interest, they said.

“Wadjda,” about a rebellious Saudi girl who wants to ride a bicycle in her country, where that is not allowed, 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 Oscar foreign-language film entry.

Since then, Al-Mansour has shot “A Storm in the Stars,” based on the life of “Frankenstein” author Mary Shelley, starring Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth. That English-language film is now in post and is tipped to bow in a Venice berth in September.

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