The IU Cinema organized a Q&A session with Saudi Arabian filmmaker Haifaa al-Mansour at 4 p.m. Friday. Following the Q&A session, al-Mansour attended a screening of her most recent film, “The Perfect Candidate,” at 7 p.m.
Al-Mansour is both Saudi Arabia’s first filmmaker and the first female filmmaker in the country, whose four films have all been showcased at the IU Cinema this fall.
“Haifaa al-Mansour is a champion for women filmmakers, and her films all have very strong and inspiring characters,” Jon Vickers, director of the IU Cinema, said in an email. “She is a filmmaker who has been on our radar since the release of her debut film in 2012, when we first invited her to campus.”
The Q&A session at the IU Cinema was led by Vickers and consisted of a conversation between the two which opened up to questions from the audience after about an hour. The conversation ranged from chats about growing up in Saudi Arabia to producing her films.
“I had to direct the outdoor scenes (for ‘Wadjda’) from a van through a walkie-talkie because men and women were not allowed to work together on the street,” al-Mansour said, referring to the production of her first film. “Although it was frustrating, it taught me that sometimes it is better to allow myself to step back and allow the actors to find themselves in their roles.”
Al-Mansour went into detail regarding her journey toward becoming the first filmmaker in Saudi Arabia, beginning with directing plays at school and shooting home movies with her 11 siblings and continuing through film school in Sydney. Her movies all star female characters who feel stifled by the cultural surroundings they find themselves in, something which she fought against many times in her life.
“As a kid, I’d tell my friends that I had listened to music earlier that day and they’d say ‘What? You’ll go to hell!’” al-Mansour said. “Women in Saudi Arabia have to keep a low profile. I wanted an opinion, for people to care about what I had to say about the world.”
“The Perfect Candidate,” al-Mansour’s fourth feature film, follows a young doctor named Maryam who works hard for her patients despite being constrained by the conservative society she lives in. After being denied the opportunity for a better job in Dubai, Maryam finds herself running for mayor in her hometown, determined to challenge the restrictive gender norms she’s been bound by her entire life.
The film was nominated for the “Best Film” category at both the London and Venice Film Festivals.
“‘The Perfect Candidate’ is her newest film, which is Saudi Arabia’s entry into this year’s Oscars,” Vickers said. “This is a great opportunity for students to engage with a trailblazing filmmaker who is on the rise in Hollywood, while continuing to tell personal stories and represent her life and communities in Saudi Arabia.”
Additional information regarding these events 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.