Saudi Arabia has long been considered one of the most conservative countries in the world in regards to women’s rights. Saudi women were denied the right to vote until the 2015 elections, and until 2017 were forbidden from accessing education or healthcare without the explicit permission of a male guardian. Despite this, the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia was directed in 2012 by Haifaa al-Mansour, the first Saudi female filmmaker.
The IU Cinema screened “Mary Shelley,” the second film from al-Mansour, at 7 p.m. Thursday. The film, which depicts the relationship between the titular author and her husband Percy Shelley was initially scheduled to be attended by al-Mansour, who had to delay her visit until Dec. 13.
“This screening is part of a retrospective of the work of Haifaa al-Mansour, the first woman filmmaker in Saudi Arabia,” Director of the IU Cinema Jon Vickers said in an email. “She is regarded as one of the country’s most significant cinematic figures. On Dec. 13, she will be bringing her newest film, ‘The Perfect Candidate,’ which premiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.”
“Mary Shelley,” starring Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth as Mary and Percy Shelley respectively, is a historical drama centered around the relationship between the two 19th century writers. The two are constrained by traditional society and decide to run away together, inspiring enduring works of literature culminating in Mary’s lasting masterpiece “Frankenstein.”
“Haifaa al-Mansour is a champion for women filmmakers and her films all have very strong and inspiring characters,” Vickers said. “‘Mary Shelley’ is her most accessible film. Students should expect an entertaining look at the struggles a 19th century woman artist might encounter as she creates and fights for one of the most prominent fictional works of its time.”
The remainder of al-Mansour’s filmography will screen at the IU Cinema through November and December. “Wadjda,” al-Mansour’s first film and the first film shot entirely in Saudia Arabia, will screen at 7 p.m. Friday, followed by al-Mansour’s third film “Nappily Ever After” at 10 p.m. “The Perfect Candidate,” her fourth and most recent film, will screen at 7 p.m. Dec. 13, with al-Mansour in attendance.
“We are excited to screen all of her work in November and December, and very excited to have her on campus Dec. 13,” Vickers said. “In addition to presenting her new film, she will take part in a Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker program, which will be an extended onstage interview. She will also lead an informal master-class on film production.”
Additional information on these showings and more is available on the IU Cinema website. Tickets are available for these showings online, at the IU Auditorium Box Office or in the IU Cinema Lobby an hour before each showing.