VIFF Capsule Review: Wadjda

wadjdaThere is no doubt that Wadjda  is an extremely important film. Not only does it feature a slightly refractory girl as its lead, it is the first Saudi film directed by a woman in a country which has a non-existent film industry. But here’s the real kicker: this film is very good. Wadjda (played fearlessly by Waad Mohammed) is a savvy and rebellious 11-year-old, often pushing the boundaries within her girls’ school, landing her in some trouble. Wadjda dreams of buying a bicycle and is constantly reminded that it is not a girl’s place to ride a bike. Upon hearing of a cash prize, she enters a Qur’an competition, and the school administrators and teachers decide to make Wadjda an example of someone who can change from a rebellious spirit to studious and religious. This movie presents a well-rounded approach to generational differences and the challenges that are facing women in Saudi Arabia. This is a strong debut for Haifaa al-Mansour, who created a satisfying and eye-opening film. A real gem.