Friday, October 18, 2013

Wadjda - 3 stars

Wadjda is a charming movie from Saudi Arabia.  It's about a little girl named Wadjda who wants a bike more than anything.  The problem is in Saudi Arabia, girls don't ride bikes.  But she is determined to save up and buy a bike no matter what her mom or her teachers tell her.

This is the first full-length film made in Saudi Arabia by a female director.  Haifaa al-Mansour wrote and directed the movie, and since women can't be seen working with men, she had to direct many scenes by walkie talkie while sitting in a van. 

Wadjda is played by first time actor Waad Mohammed, and she is just adorable.  She's a very headstrong girl who rarely lets her situation get her down.  She's also very resourceful, and a bit of a scam artist.  When an older girl at her school offers her 10 riyals to deliver a message to her brother, Wadjda demands 20.  When she delivers the message, she says "Your sister told me you'd pay me 20 riyals to give you this message."

We learn a bit about life in Saudi Arabia by observing what she has to deal with.  When she goes to school without her head covered, she is scolded by her teacher.  When the girls are playing in the playground and they notice men are standing on the roof a building across the way, they have to go inside so they won't be seen by the men.  When one isn't reading the Koran, it's best to close the book so the devil won't spit on it.  Also, there are certain times of the month when a woman shouldn't touch the Koran with her bare hands. 

There are things happening around Wadjda which she doesn't understand.  When she and her friend are walking home from school, they see a group of somber looking men walking into a house.  Her friend explains that the man's nephew blew himself up, and he will go to heaven and get 70 brides.  At one point, one of her classmates brings pictures from her wedding.  She explains that she was just married to a man who is 20 years old - and the girl can't be older than 13.

I wasn't entirely certain what was going on with he father, but as near as I could tell Wadjda's parents are still married but her father doesn't live with them.  Her mother can't have any more kids, and her father wants a son, so he is looking to marry a second wife. 

The movie does a great job of showing us what life in Saudi Arabia is like for women, but it's not a depressing movie.  It's about a little girl determined to experience freedom, and nothing symbolizes freedom for a kid like a bicycle. 

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