EXCLUSIVE: Wadjda writer-director Haifaa Al-Mansour, Saudi Arabia’s trailblazing first female filmmaker, is setting up female empowerment animation Miss Camel at LA-based animation hub ShadowMachine, producer of Netflix’s BojackHorseman and Cartoon Network’s Robot Chicken.
ShadowMachine will develop and produce the project with Al-Mansour and her husband Brad Niemann with both parties telling us they are “excited to be collaborating on such a fun project.” UTA will handle finance on the movie, which is in early stages.
Miss Camel, the story of a Saudi teen named Hayla who will do anything to escape her arranged marriage and fulfil her goal of attending art school outside of Saudi Arabia, won the IWC Filmmaker Award, worth $100,000, at the Dubai International Film Festival in December. A jury headed by Cate Blanchett selected the project as winner of the prize. According to the film’s synopsis, “while scheming to make her way to the in-person interviews for the art college in a neighbouring Gulf state, Hayla makes a startling discovery at her cousin’s wedding – she can talk to animals.”
Al-Mansour shot to international prominence in 2012 with well-received Arab-language drama Wadjda, about a 10-year-old girl who wants to ride a bicycle even though it is forbidden for her in her country. Her English-language biopic Mary Shelley, starring Elle Fanning, world premiered at Toronto last year and she is currently in post-production on Netflix comedy-romance Nappily Ever After starring Sanaa Lathan. The director is planning to return to Saudi Arabia at the end of this year to shoot The Perfect Candidate, which will also be a commentary on women’s standing in her homeland.
Last week it was announced that Al-Mansour would be one of three women on a new 13-member board to oversee cultural and artistic development in Saudi Arabia. The director will sit on the board of the country’s General Authority for Culture alongside curator and historian Mona Khazindar and playwright and theater director Maysa Al-Sobehy.
ShadowMachine and Tornante Company’s Netflix hit BoJack Horseman, about a washed-up actor who is also a horse, features the voices of Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie and Aaron Paul. The LA outfit is currently in production on Youtube Red’s space adventure buddy comedy Dallas & Robo featuring the voices of John Cena and Kat Dennings while 2015 movie Hell And Back featured a voice cast including Mila Kunis, TJ Miller, Danny McBride and Susan Sarandon. The expanding production house opened a satellite office in Portland, Oregon last year.
Al-Mansour is represented by UTA, Anonymous Content and Loeb & Loeb.