- Allan Hunter
- 16 July 2013
A charming tale that also happens to be the first Saudi Arabian film shot by a woman
Wadjda holds a unique place in world cinema as the first Saudi Arabian feature shot entirely within the kingdom and directed by a woman, Haifaa Al Mansour. The novelty value alone is enough to make it of interest but even more noteworthy is the fact that this is such a charming and winning tale.
Newcomer Waad Mohammed's performance as ten year-old tomboy Wadjda is a large part of the film's appeal. She is a complete natural who effortlessly takes centre stage as an irrepressible blithe spirit. Her Wadjda simply refuses to acknowledge that the restraints on women in Saudi Arabia could possibly apply to her.
Her best friend is Abdullah (Abdullrahman Al Gohani) and her dream is to race through the streets of Riyadh alongside him. Girls are not allowed to ride bikes in Saudi Arabia in the same way that women are not permitted to drive cars. It is a matter of propriety and a way of controlling their independence. Wadjda is a determined little girl. There is green bike that she would love to call her own and a Koran competition with the kind of prize money that could make her dream come true.
Wadjda is a classic underdog tale given a gently subversive edge by the insight it affords into daily life in Saudi Arabia and the trials faced by any woman of an independent nature. There is a constant sense of the way women are regarded as second class citizens and a prevailing ethos that becomes internalised-smart headmistress Ms Hussa is a strict enforcer of sharia law. The film also boasts a crisp, polished craftsmanship that makes it a pleasure to watch. If you are looking to introduce a younger generation to international cinema then this could be the place to start.
Limited release from Fri 19 Jul