Review: ‘Wadjda’ (PG) *** and a half

BRAVO, Haifaa al-Mansour, Saudi-Arabian writer/director who learned her cinema craft at Sydney University.

o-WADJDA-facebookWithout rancour or compromise, her feature writing and directing debut dispassionately and subtly observes the condition and social status of women in that Muslim country.

Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) is 11 years old. Her father has abandoned her and her handsome mother (Reem Abdullah) for a woman who might give him a son. When visiting their house, he plays video games while waiting to be fed.

Wadjda and Abdullah (Abdullrahman Al Gohani) are friends of similar age. He has a bicycle. She wants one to have races with him. A beautiful green bike is on sale for 1000 riyals. Saudi society regards bikes as dangerous to a girl’s virtue. The film does not explain the origins of this but imagination might suggest a valid reason. There are many other restrictions; for example, a woman must not touch the Koran while menstruating

At school, devout Muslim Mrs Hussa (Ahd) enforces rules governing every aspect of girl behaviour. The prize in a contest for the best Koran student is 1000 riyals. Fun-loving Wadjda sets about assembling the necessary money.

You can absorb Wadjda’s film in two ways. As a discourse about women’s status or as a gentle story about a sweet girl-child pushing custom’s boundaries. Either alone is valid; both together form a rewarding experience.

At Palace Electric and Capitol 6

 

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