Saudi filmmaker to head up Venice festival jury prize

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Haifaa Al Mansour, Saudi Arabia’s first female film director, has been unveiled as president of the International Jury for the “Luigi De Laurentiis” Venice Award for a Debut Film at the prestigious 70th Venice International Film Festival this summer.

Al Mansour, whose film ‘Wadjda’ was screened at the 2012 festival and tells the story of a young girl trying to earn enough money to buy a bicycle, will head up a jury of seven people to award the $100,000 prize to a debut filmmaker.

Al Mansour is the first major female filmmaker to emerge from Saudi Arabia and is already regarded as one of its most significant cinematic figures, according to a statement issued by the festival.

“Her feature debut Wadjda, the first film shot in the Kingdom, was launched at the 2012 Venice International Film Festival to wide critical acclaim and continues to generate momentum from enthusiastic audiences and numerous international awards,” the statement said.

She studied comparative literature at the American University in Cairo, completed a Master’s degree in Film Studies at the University of Sydney and the success of her first film saw her listed by Hollywood trade magazine Variety as one of the “10 Director’s to Watch” in 2013.

The 70th Venice Film Festival will take place from August 28 to September 7.

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