Wadjda – Film Review

An enterprising Saudi girl signs on for her school’s Koran recitation competition as a way to raise the remaining funds she needs in order to buy the green bicycle that has captured her interest.  –IMDb

I first heard about this film through Girls’ Globe, a site dedicated to raising awareness and educating others on global issues about the rights, health, and empowerment of women and girls.

Wadjda is the first feature fully filmed in Saudi Arabia. Haifaa Al-Mansour is the first woman from Saudi Arabia to direct a feature film. This was not an easy task. Women are not supposed to work with men in public. Haifaa directed all exterior scenes from the inside of a van. She watched the actors on monitors and communicated with them via walkie-talkie. Nonetheless, she received government approval to complete the film in the country. Although cinemas are not permitted in the country, audiences can see the film on television.

Wadjda is one of my favorite films this year. The film is thought provoking. It carries a heartfelt message about what it means to grow up as a woman in a country where women have plenty of restrictions. For example, women in the kingdom are not allowed to drive. Wadjda wishes for a bike, but she’s constantly told that girls “should not drive bikes.” The notion of a giving a girl a bike is frown upon by society. “You will not be able to have children,” her mom tells her when Wadjda persists on getting a bike. It’s a beautiful metaphor about a girl’s pursue for agency in her society, to make her own destiny, and find her voice.

It features great actors. Waad Mohammed plays Wadjda, a ten years old girl living with her mother in a middle class suburb. Waad Mohammed and Reem Abdullah (Wadjda’s mother) deliver a wonderful performance. The moments between mother and daughter are sweet and transcend all cultural differences.

This film depicts the life of men and women under the politics and spaces given to them in their society. Wadjda’s mother is devoted to her husband, yet her movements are restricted to what’s expected of her as a married woman. She fears that she will lose her husband due to her invalidity to give him a son. Wadjda’s school plays a big role in enforcing gender restrictions, where a strict principal sets the rules and expectations how girls should behave.

Wadjda is now playing in selected theaters. I urge everyone to go and see this film. You will not be disappointed.

And no, this is not a “girl’s movie.” It’s a film about women’s issues, which happens to have a female lead. Please, do not feed on this idea that films about women (or female leads) are only for female viewers…  Plus, women watch plenty of superhero films. Go watch Wadjda. It’s a wonderful film

Also read: Dana Stevens’ Review

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