One of the most memorable films from the 2012 BFI London Film Festival came not from one of the event’s established names but from a first time features director from the Middle East. Considering that cinemas are outlawed all around the country, filming an entire movie in Saudi Arabia would be pretty hard. Add the fact that Wadjda was made by a female director in a culture where women aren’t even allowed to drive and it’s a miracle that this got made at all. (Because women aren’t permitted to be with men in public, director Haifaa Al-Mansour had to direct most of the streets scenes from within the confines of a truck, talking to the crew over the telephone.)
The film tells the story of Wadjda, a bright young girl living the capital of Riyadh. Desperate to buy a green bicycle she sees in a local store, she enters a Qur’an-reading competition at school that’s offering a large cash prize. But her quest to win sees her coming up against all sorts of challenges from a society that treats women’s right like an abstract concept.
It’s a heart-warming, empathetic film that will open your eyes to a part of the world that we almost never see in the movies. We can’t wait to see it again in the cinemas.
Wadjda will be released in the UK on the 19th of July