By Saudi director Mila Al-Zahrini’s new film builds on her strength of making women heroes who are determined and relatable, writes Gabby Thorpe
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Perfect Candidate is a film that challenges stereotypes

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Issue 2696
The Perfect Candidate stars Mila Al-Zahrani as Maryam
The Perfect Candidate stars Mila Al-Zahrani as Maryam

The Perfect Candidate is a political fable with a kick. It tells the story of Maryam (Mila Al-Zahrani), a doctor living in Saudi Arabia who finds herself accidentally running for the local council.

Director Haifaa Al-Mansour has made a career making films about brilliant women.

Both Mary Shelley and Nappily Ever After bring stories of women and their oppression to the forefront.

Al-Mansour said that she didn’t want to “make a film that alienates the world or makes it more inaccessible”.

The Perfect Candidate is far from being that and exposes the struggles of women in Saudi society.

Al-Mansour succeeds in making a film that talks about oppression that women face with a story that is touching and fun.

Maryam is instantly lovable and brilliant. She sticks with her political campaign despite having no clue what she’s doing.

Maryam is told that she is welcome to campaign for office, but the rules mean that she will be at an instant disadvantage.

She is not allowed to show her face in campaign videos or address male voters.

Her dad is unenthusiastic and her sister is melodramatically against the idea of her standing.

But she still brings a fight, and ignores the advice of those around her who don’t understand.

Far from being a massive problem for her, Maryam’s idealism and naivete make her easy to root for.

It is easy to assume what the

outcome might be, but the audience is still left hoping that she will make it through.

Instead, Maryam works to make life better through the medical centre where she is a doctor and brings a rebellious spirit that makes the film so watchable.

The strength of Al-Mansour’s films is her ability to create heroes that are optimistic and determined, but still feel relatable and real.

Women have been at the forefront of struggle in the Middle East.

And Al-Mansour has given tribute to those who fight for women’s liberation.

The Perfect Candidate should serve as inspiration for women everywhere to take their liberation into their own hands.

The film itself is unlikely to be a big hit, but it will certainly gain its own following.

The Perfect Candidate, Directed by Mila Al-Zahrani, Out on 27 March

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