“Change is a big word, and elections are the only way to have our voices heard,” Saudi physician Maryam Alsafan (Mila Al Zahrani) says in the trailer for “The Perfect Candidate.” From groundbreaking filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour, the pic sees Maryam entering local politics in order to fix up her struggling clinic.
The road outside the facility is unpaved and muddy, making it difficult to bring gurneys inside. “If I am elected, my priority will be paving that road,” Maryam announces. But infrastructure isn’t the only issue her campaign addresses: just by virtue of her gender, Maryam is also taking on societal sexism and the notion that “a woman’s place is in the home.”
“I’ll show them what I’m made of and they’ll see me differently,” Maryam vows in the spot.
“The Perfect Candidate” previously screened at Venice, TIFF, BFI, and Athena, among other film festivals. It launched on VOD in the U.K. last year in lieu of a theatrical release due to the pandemic.
When we spoke to Al Mansour about the movie, she told us, “[Maryam] is not a rebel for the sake of rebellion — she is someone that knows that her work can make the country a better place and simply wants to remove the barriers that keep her from accomplishing her mission.” The director added, “I strongly believe that this is the way that true change comes to a society, through hardworking people who simply want to be able to reach their highest potential.”
Considered the first female filmmaker in Saudi Arabia, Al Mansour’s “Wadjda” was the first feature ever to be shot entirely inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Her credits include “Mary Shelley,” “Nappily Ever After,” and episodes of “The Wilds” and “The Good Lord Bird.” She co-wrote “The Perfect Candidate” with Brad Niemann.
“The Perfect Candidate” opens in U.S. theaters May 14.