Haifaa Al-Mansour was shocked when she was approached to direct 'Mary Shelley'.

The 43-year-old filmmaker - who is one of Saudi Arabia's best-known and most controversial directors - has admitted to being an unlikely candidate to helm the new movie about the English novelist.

She shared: ''They sent me the script and I was a little surprised. I said 'I'm from Saudi Arabia' I told my agent 'do they know really?' and then I read the script and I really sympathised with the character. I understood her journey.

''I felt there was a connection that transcends across culture, across race, across everything. I felt like her journey should be celebrated by women, period, everywhere because that is what we want to do, to conquer new frontiers like she did. That legacy and celebrating her makes us succeed because people will always doubt you as a woman.''

In fact, Haifaa made a conscious decision to ensure that 'Mary Shelley' was a ''feminist film''.

She said: ''I hope people see how deliberate that was.''

Haifaa is the first female Saudi filmmaker, and she's had to overcome some enormous challenges to establish herself as a respected director.

Speaking to Den of Geek, she explained: ''When I started making films it hurt.

''I was in Saudi and cinema was illegal and people did not believe in my work and didn't believe in me. I was like a joke. It really hurts when people dismiss you creatively. When you are a creative you wear your heart on your sleeve. You put part of yourself out there.''