Haifaa Al-Mansour is a Saudi Arabian filmmaker who has made a major impact on the world of cinema. She is the first female director from her country to have her work shown in cinemas outside of her home nation.
Al-Mansour was born in Riyadh in 1974 and grew up in a conservative Muslim family. Despite her family’s traditional values, her parents encouraged her to study and pursue her dreams. She attended King Saud University, where she earned a degree in literature, before going on to study at the University of Sydney in Australia.
Her first film was a short documentary titled Women Without Shadows (2005). The documentary explored the lives of women living in Saudi Arabia and the restrictions they face due to their gender. The film was met with acclaim and was screened at numerous international film festivals, paving the way for her future success.
In 2012, Al-Mansour made history when her first feature-length film, Wadjda, became the first feature-length film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. Wadjda was also the first feature-length film to be directed by a female Saudi Arabian filmmaker and the first Saudi Arabian film to be submitted for the Academy Awards. The story follows a young girl who dreams of owning a bicycle, but faces numerous obstacles due to her gender and her culture.
Al-Mansour’s next feature-length film, Mary Shelley (2017) is a biopic about the author of the classic novel Frankenstein. The film stars Elle Fanning and chronicles the life and times of one of the earliest and most influential female authors in history.
In addition to her film work, Al-Mansour is also an advocate for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. She has spoken at numerous events about the state of women’s rights in her home country and has advocated for greater representation of female voices in the arts.
Today, Al-Mansour continues to make films that challenge traditional values and push boundaries. She is a true trailblazer in the world of cinema and is an inspiration to aspiring female filmmakers around the world.