tue 31/03/2020

DVD: Wadjda | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Wadjda

DVD: Wadjda

The bold young heroine of a landmark Saudi film brooks no obstacles to owning a bicycle and riding it in public

She's gotta have it: Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) and her heart's desireSoda Pictures

Supposedly the first full-length film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first directed by a Saudi woman, Haifaa al-Mansour's Wadjda is also the first Saudi movie to be entered for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. That it wasn't selected is dispiriting. Oscar visibility would have drawn attention to Mansour's eye for telling images and the discretion with which she depicts Islam's suppression of women.

Supposedly the first full-length film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first directed by a Saudi woman, Haifaa al-Mansour's Wadjda is also the first Saudi movie to be entered for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. That it wasn't selected is dispiriting. Oscar visibility would have drawn attention to Mansour's eye for telling images and the discretion with which she depicts Islam's suppression of women.

The film's focusing on a young girl's symbolic quest for freedom was possibly considered a cliché in the wake of such affecting Iranian New Wave entries as The White Balloon (1995) and The Apple (1998), but Mansour's storytelling feels fresh. A charmingly feisty tween living in suburban Riyadh, Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) sports purple laces in her black Converse high-tops and makes and sells bracelets and mix-tapes of Western pop songs. When it comes to ensuring her head is covered outdoors, she constantly risks the wrath of the religious police. She loves her father but scarcely reveres the ruling sex, drolly cheeking a mirthless shopkeeper and a cologne-doused swain who is illicitly romancing an older student in her all-girl madrasa.

Wadjda's problem is that she can't afford to buy a bicycle with which to race the kindly neighbourhood boy who is her best friend. Cycling is not, in any case, approved for virgins in Saudi Arabia because of the physical risk it poses to their marriageability. She sets her heart, of course, on buying a bike and determines to win the cash prize offered in her school's Koran recitation competition (Waad Mohammed pictured second from left, with Dana Abdullilah, centre, in study class.)

Regrettaby, she has earned the disfavor of her smug headmistress (played by actress-filmmaker Ahd), who claims she was like Wadjda when she was her age but has become an instrument of patriarchal cruelty. This woman's opposite is Wadjda's mother (Reem Abdullah), who fears that her beloved husband is about to take a second bride. The mother's unexpected bonding with Wajdja suggests that positive change for women in Saudia Arabia need not be glacial if they are united.

The disc's extras include Women Without Shadows (2005), Mansour's 45-minute, interview-driven documentary about such issues as Moslem women's right to work and their enforced wearing of the black cloak known as the abaya. One can imagine the future Wadjda dyeing hers pink.

 

Wadjda loves her father but scarcely reveres the ruling sex

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4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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