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The Perfect Candidate: Sundance 2020

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: HAIFAA AL MANSOUR [AUDIO] We had the pleasure chatting with director Haifaa Al Mansour on her latest phenomenal film and the audio interview is available in our 'Sundance Highlight' section on our main page.

The first Saudi woman to direct a feature film, Haifaa Al Mansour broke out with Wadjda and returns to her roots with The Perfect Candidate, which premiered at the Venice International Film Festival and is Saudi Arabia’s Academy Award entry for Best International Feature Film.

The Perfect Candidate focuses on Maryam, who is an ambitious young doctor working in a small town clinic in Saudi Arabia. Despite her qualifications, she has to earn the respect of male colleagues and acceptance from her patients every day. After Maryam is prevented from traveling to Dubai in search of a better job, a bureaucratic mixup leads her to stumble on the application for her local city elections and she decides to run. With her musician father away on tour playing the first public concerts allowed in the Kingdom in decades, Maryam enlists her two younger sisters to begin fundraising and planning campaign events. While they face the restriction of women’s traditional roles in the Kingdom at every turn, Maryam’s audacious candidacy starts to build momentum and challenges her conservative community. A tight race emerges between Maryam and her male opponent, as Maryam and her family mobilize their determination and creativity to move their traditional society forward.

A challenge to Saudi patriarchy, The Perfect Candidate is an amusing but biting reflection on women in a society that systematically marginalizes them. Al Mansour finds an inadvertent heroine in Maryam, who learns to run a campaign from a web article and creatively navigates a restriction barring her from addressing male voters directly. With spirit and authenticity, the film offers a rare glimpse into a still-obscure society. For more visit:

Director Note

"I want to show how much effort real change will entail. Women will now have opportunities to contribute and participate in a society that kept them on the sidelines.

for generations. The hardest part now is for women to look beyond the antiquated social standards and limited goals they had previously seen for themselves, to shatter the taboos that hold them back and decide to blaze new trails for themselves and their daughters."


Haifaa Al Mansour finished her bachelor’s degree in Literature at the American University in Cairo and completed a Master’s degree in Directing and Film Studies from the University of Sydney. She is considered the first female filmmaker in Saudi Arabia and her feature film WADJDA (2012) was the first feature film ever to be shot entirely inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Invited to over 40 festivals worldwide, WADJDA garnered numerous awards - among others in Venice, Rotterdam and Dubai.

Filmography 2019: The Perfect Candidate 2017: Nappily Ever After 2016: Mary Shelley 2012: Wadjda 2005: Women Without Shadows

Main Cast:

Mila Alzahrani: Maryam

Dhay: Selma Khalid Abdulrhim: Abdulaziz

Shafi Al Harthy: Mohammed

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