When you think about how much Wadjda has achieved in history, it’s quite a miracle that this movie was made. Aside from being the first film shot entirely within Saudi Arabia, it is also the first film to have been directed by a Saudi woman. But even to think that it will seem conventional from an outsider’s perspective of Saudi culture, there’s a much greater level to which Wadjda speaks for because of what ground it breaks for their own society. It’s a film that came right out from a country where we know that cinema in general had been banned for years, but the transgressive nature behind what we already can see as a simple coming-of-age tale is among many factors that make Wadjda all the more admirable.
This is a film that tells the story of a young girl named Wadjda, a rebellious ten-year-old girl who makes money from making bracelets hoping that she will acquire enough to own a bicycle. But in Saudi society, she isn’t allowed to own one, because women know their own place in the world around them thus their voices go unheard. For as simple as this story sounds, what’s there to admire about Wadjda is the fact that it stands for freedom inside of a society that continuously oppresses its own people. It’s admirable because when you think about how difficult it must be for a film like Wadjda to be released, there’s an important, unheard voice that’s finally getting its own chance to speak.
I don’t think I can say this any other way, but Waad Mohammad is absolutely phenomenal in the title role. Wadjda herself is a character that represents the optimism of being young even inside of a repressive society. But writer-director Haifaa Al-Mansour doesn’t go far beyond telling this simple story and that’s what makes it all the more impactful. It’s beautiful because of how much did she manage to draw sympathy for an experience where it would be scary even to stand up for your own rights as a human being. And she never loses touch of that feeling, and that’s what makes Wadjda all the more inspiring of a story to be told. Given as this is a first-time effort it’s all the more moving that this film would do its best to stick true to that experience in order to feel as authentic as possible.
But perhaps that was all that was really needed for Wadjda; simplicity and authenticity. While I’m still quite reserved about the narrative itself, I can’t ever find myself ignoring the fact that this film’s social relevance will indeed render it to be an important watch and for good reason. And how much further can Saudi society go in order to allow more of these voices to be heard? Hopefully soon at that, because as of right now I’m also going to proudly show my support for Haisaa Al-Mansour’s future projects. It doesn’t matter how good the film was, because the many firsts that it has accomplished are already enough to make me glad to have watched Wadjda.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Koch Media.
Directed by Haifaa al-Mansour
Screenplay by Haifaa al-Mansour
Produced by Gerhard Meixner, Roman Paul
Starring Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Abdulrahman al-Guhani
Release Year: 2012
Running Time: 98 minutes