Haifaa al-Mansour

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Haifaa al-Mansour

Haifaa al-Mansour (Arabic: هيفاء المنصور‎‎; born 10 August 1974) is a film director from Saudi Arabia. She is one of the country's best-known and most controversial directors, and the first female Saudi filmmaker.[1][2]

Life and career[edit]

Haifaa al-Mansour is the eighth (out of twelve)[3] child of the poet Abdul Rahman Mansour, who introduced her to films by video, there being no movie theaters in Saudi Arabia.[4] One of her favourite actors was Jackie Chan.[5] She is from Al Zulfi but grew up in Al-Hasa.[6]

With her father's encouragement, she studied comparative literature at the American University in Cairo.[4] She later went on to attend film school in Sydney, Australia.[3]

She began her filmmaking career with three shorts, Who?, The Bitter Journey and The Only Way Out. The Only Way Out won prizes in the United Arab Emirates and in the Netherlands.[7] She followed these with the documentary Women Without Shadows, which deals with the hidden lives of women in Arab States of the Persian Gulf. It was shown at 17 international festivals. The film received the Golden Dagger for Best Documentary in the Muscat Film Festival and a special jury mention in the fourth Arab Film Festival in Rotterdam. Haifaa al-Mansour was a guest at the 28th Three Continents Festival in Nantes, France.[1]

Her feature debut, Wadjda, which she wrote as well as directed, made its world premiere at the 2012 Venice Film Festival; it is the first full-length feature to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia[2][8][9][10] and through 2013, the only feature-length film made in Saudi Arabia by a female director.[3] Wadjda tells the story of an 11-year-old girl growing up in the suburbs of Riyadh, who dreams of owning and riding a green bicycle.[11] The film was backed by Rotana, the film production company of Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal.[3] Wadjda was selected as the Saudi Arabian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, which is the first time Saudi Arabia has submitted a film for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.[12][13][14][15] The project had been developed in 2009 during the Gulf screenwriting lab, a collaboration between TorinoFilmLab and Dubai International Film Festival.

She did not intend that her film work focus on women’s issues, but found them too important to not address. Both Who? and Women Without Shadows deal with the custom of abaya. She has received hate mail and criticism for being unreligious, which she denies. She does, however, feel that Saudi Arabia needs to take a more critical view of its culture.[4] She also received praise from Saudis for encouraging discussion on topics usually considered taboo.[7]

In 2014 it was reported that al-Mansour is to direct A Storm in the Stars, an upcoming romantic drama film.[16]

Haifaa al-Mansour has been living in Bahrain for some years with her husband, Bradley Neimann, an American diplomat, and their two children, Adam and Hailey.[3][17]

She was selected to be on the jury for the Un Certain Regard section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.[18]


  • Who? (من؟)
  • The Bitter Journey (الرحيل المر)
  • The Only Way Out (أنا والآخر)
  • Women Without Shadows (نساء بلا الظل)
  • Wadjda (وجدة)
  • A Storm in the Stars


  1. ^ a b Joan Dupont. “Saudi filmmakers come out of the shadows”. International Herald Tribune, 14 December 2006 .
  2. ^ a b "Cannes 2012: Saudi Arabia's First Female Director Brings 'Wadjda' to Fest". The Hollywood Reporter. 15 May 2012. Retrieved 8 September 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Grey, Tobias (30–31 March 2013), "The undercover director", Financial Times, p. 14 
  4. ^ a b c Danna Harman. “Middle Eastern Female Filmmakers Give Glimpse of Once-Veiled Worlds” March 10, 2008. Christian Science Monitor/Alternet.
  5. ^ Fielding-Smith, Abigail (14–15 December 2013), "The film director blazing a trail for Saudi women", Financial Times, p. 21 
  6. ^ http://www.culturalweekly.com/wadjda-conversation-haifaa-al-mansour/
  7. ^ a b Najah Al Osaimi. “Haifa Film Creates a Stir.” ‘’Arab News’’. 21 April 2005.
  8. ^ "Saudi's first female director seeks to break gender taboos". Times. Retrieved 8 September 2012. 
  9. ^ Macnab, Geoffrey (15 May 2012). "Al Mansour reveals struggles of directing Wadjda". Screen Daily. Retrieved 8 September 2012. 
  10. ^ "First film shot in Saudi to debut at Cannes". Arabian Business. Retrieved 8 September 2012. 
  11. ^ Valdini, Claire (16 May 2012). "First film shot in Saudi to debut at Cannes". Arabian Business. Retrieved 8 September 2012. 
  12. ^ "Oscars: Saudi Arabia Taps 'Wadjda' As First Foreign-Language Entry". Variety. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  13. ^ "'Wadjda' is Saudi Arabia's first nominee for foreign-language Oscar". LA Times. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  14. ^ "Saudi Arabia submits first film for Oscars with 'Wadjda'". Gulf News. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  15. ^ "Oscars: Saudi Arabia Nominates 'Wadjda' for Foreign Language Category". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  16. ^ Tartaglione, February (28 February 2014). "'Wadjda's Haifaa Al Mansour To Direct 'A Storm In The Stars' For Gidden Media". Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  17. ^ http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/09/meet-saudi-arabias-groundbreaking-filmmaker.html
  18. ^ "Un Certain Regard Jury 2015". Cannes Film Festival. 7 May 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2015. 

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