Saturday, July 27, 2013


Wadjda is a ten year old girl who is an only child and she's a little different from her schoolmates. Her best friend is the (younger) boy who lives next door. They socialize on the trip to their respective schools - she walks and he rides his bike. She's not supposed to ride a bike because she's a girl but at least her trip to school is pretty carefree compared to her schoolteacher mother's trip to work. (Women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia,  so her mother and her colleagues are picked up and driven to school by an employed male driver. And if the driver is a tosser, your choices are limited by the fact you can't drive yourself). Wadjda desperately wants her own bike and is saving to buy the one in the local store - and she's pretty enterprising. She makes bracelets to sell to her schoolmates and delivering illicit messages from her schoolmates to boys also provides income. When she finds that a school contest involving reciting the Koran has a monetary prize big enough to buy the bike, she signs up - surprising the head teacher who has her categorised as a rebel

Wadjda  was a great way to kick off the film festival.  It's the first feature directed by a Saudi woman and the first full length feature to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and as I was being entertained I was pleased to feel that a local was telling me "so this is how it is for women in Saudi Arabia". It made me think of Pride and Prejudice - a thoroughly entertaining story, encapsulating life for women in a particular place and time, told by someone who was there. And like Britain in the early 19th Century, life for women in Saudi Arabia in the twenty-first century is heavily dependent on men  and they really need to be married to one. Life has a  bizarre focus on what random men are doing -for example, all the girls in the school playground are supposed to go inside if a man happens to be within viewing distance.

Wadjda's mum is an interesting mix of progressive and deeply socially conservative. She allows her daughter to listen to pop music, wear jeans and sneakers and hang out with her male neighbour, and yet she's horrified when one of her own friends dares to talk to a man with her face uncovered.There's a nice contrast between how she'd like the world to be and being deeply conscious of the price of inviting society's disapproval.

A great cast, a good script, an exotic location and gender issues addressed with humour make for a great watch,

Anne's rating: 4/5  Ian's rating 4/5

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