Venice, July 10 - Saudi Arabia's first female filmmaker, Haifaa al-Mansour, was named Wednesday to head the jury for the Luigi De Laurentiis prize at the Venice International Film Festival. Mansour, whose feature debut "Wadjda" (The Green Bicycle) was well received last year at the Venice festival, continues to gain recognition internationally. After studying comparative literature at the American University in Cairo, Mansour went on to earn a Masters in Film Studies at the University of Sydney. The success of her short films and documentaries, including the innovative Women Without Shadow in 2005 has influenced a new wave of Saudi directors and raised the profile of films in her country. There, her work is both praised and vilified for encouraging the discussion of taboo topics and for having penetrated the wall silence surrounding the segregated lives of Saudi women. The international success of "Wadjda" - about a young girl's dream of riding a bicycle, taboo for women in Saudi Arabia - led Variety magazine to include Mansour among its "10 Directors to Watch" list for 2013. Mansour will lead a panel of seven film personalities in judging entrants for the $100,000 Luigi De Laurentiis prize for a first feature film, with the prize money to be split between the producer and director. The 70th Venice film festival will run August 28 through September 7.
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di Giovanni Pastore