“Is this a women’s rights thing?” skeptical onlookers ask a young Saudi doctor who’s announced she’s running for local council in The Perfect Candidate, which recently screened at the London Film Festival. It’s a rather apt question to raise in director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s fourth feature film—and her second made in Saudi Arabia—given the Kingdom’s recent breakthroughs for women’s rights.
Written by Al-Mansour and Brad Niemann, The Perfect Candidate follows a young doctor named Maryam (Mila Al Zahrani), who unexpectedly runs for election to her local town council. Determined to prove herself, Maryam enlists her two sisters Selma (Dae Al Hilali) and Sara (Nora Al Awadh) to help with her campaign (and provide some excellent comic relief). The film not only shows how Maryam’s friends and family meet her run with initial apprehension, but also depicts how the local community wrap their heads around the concept of a female candidate.