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