Sunday 2nd February 2:30 PM


First I have to tell you that ’Wadjda’ is a movie of firsts. It is the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. Even more impressive, ’Wadjda’ is the first feature film made by a female Saudi filmmaker. In a country where cinemas are banned and women cannot drive or vote, writer-director Haifaa Al Mansour has broken many barriers with her new film. If I then tell you it won one of the best film awards at Venice Film Festival, you will see we chose it for more than
it’s possible effect on Saudi society.

Even in Britain, many girls are brought up to think of themselves as girls first, humans second; ‘Don’t play football with the boys’, etc. Whilst this has changed a lot, and is still changing, in Saudi girls can still do virtually nothing without permission from a male adult. So the frowns little Suzie would get in London are positive encouragement compared to what 10 year old Wadjda gets in Riyadh. She rebels by wearing Converse sneakers under her black robes, but when it comes to wanting a bike to prove she is faster to her young friend Addullah, not only do the adults say no, but everything she tries to raise money to buy her own is also forbidden.

Imagine, then, how hard it must have been for Al Mansour to write and direct this film. Writing could be done behind closed doors, of course, but she had to find ways of filming without being seen; hiding in the back of a van or watching through a monitor. She took the decision not to attempt to produce an overt political film, but to show us their society through a 10 year old girl’s viewpoint, a viewpoint that can only see the absurdity of the rules, not the oppression. It is also a viewpoint that allows us to laugh along with her adventures, making this a light film to watch.




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