Haifaa Al Mansour


"Saudi Arabia has a scary exterior on the outside, once people fly in they are pleasantly surprised."

When did you start in the film business?

My first entry to the film industry started in 2005, there was a competition in Abu Dhabi called Emirates Film Competition for filmmakers in the region, which was my steppingstone to filmmaking.

I started making short films and a documentary shortly after that, until it was the right time to make my first feature film. Wadjda is a story that took place in a humble family in Saudi Arabia, and I wanted it to have the authentic Saudi feel. It was 2012, nobody has ever filmed in Saudi Arabia at that time which made that option difficult. I found a German production company who were interested in exploring the industry in Saudi Arabia and I was able to push forward filming the entire film in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Wadjda was the first feature film ever to be filmed in Riyadh.


Bringing people to life is not easy, and the lack of casting agencies casting can get really difficult. For me it was word of mouth casting and a bit of luck. The thing about working in Saudi is that it is very intimate, once you find the right talent and train them, you will watch them grow and learn and to me that is very exciting.

How do international crew perceive Saudi Arabia and how does that change during filming?

Saudi Arabia has a scary exterior on the outside, once people fly in they are pleasantly surprised. Arab hospitality is immediately evident as the local crew enjoyed sharing stories, songs, introducing foods and culture to the international crew. On the other hand, international crew offered them training and were patient in teaching them different aspects of the industry. Many remained friends long after filming ended.

Why did you choose the story of The Perfect Candidate?

With the new vision of Saudi Arabia and the opened opportunities I felt it was the right time to make a film highlighting a story of a woman in politics as well as the intimacy of a man and his passion for arts.

What is your future vision for the film industry in Saudi?

Saudi Arabia has a lot of obstacles to overcome, but people have a lot of curiosity. In my vision the more we are diving into the film industry the more we will bloom to the next level and hopefully we will have more representations in international awards.