By Sophia Whitfield
Wadjda is the first film to be filmed entirely in Saudi Arabia by the countries first female film director, Haifaa Al Mansour. When filming in the more conservative areas Al Mansour had to direct from inside a van using a walkie-talkie, but her preference was always to be outside where she was more empowered to direct. At times she had to endure the displeasure of others when her job entailed mixing with men.
The story is based on a simple premise. Wadjda, a 10 year old girl. desires to own and ride a bike. Her friend Abdullah has a bike and she is desperate to race him down the street, but knows that she will incite the ire of those around her. Only boys ride bikes in the streets of Saudi Arabia. Unperturbed she embarks on a campaign to raise the money necessary to purchase her bike. She sells forbidden bracelets she has made herself to classmates and runs errands always for a cash reward.
Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) must always cover herself when she is outside in the same way that her mother does, but she finds the restrictive culture at odds with her nature. At home she listens to loud music, plays on her playstation and designs her bracelets. Known for her rebellious streak at school she surprises everyone by enrolling in a Koran competition and diligently studying in order to gain first prize. If she does win her reward will be a cash prize that will finally realise her dream of purchasing a bike.
Wadjda’s mother is less concerned with her daughter and more so with her absent husband. She is consumed with keeping her husband for herself ensuring that he does not take on a second wife.
The film is gentle in tone, lilting along with the underlying premise that change might just be around the corner.
Wadjda is released in cinemas across Australia today.
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