EMINE – Wadjda One Girl Stands Up for All

Wadjda One Girl Stands Up for AllHaifaa Al Mansour’s first film, “Wadjda,” is not only the first feature film to ever come out of the country of Saudi Arabia, but it is also directed and written by a Saudi woman who comes from a country specifically limiting the role of women in its society. In such circumstances, against all odds, it is a pleasure to see that Mansour presents a film fit for nearly all international audiences without ever giving up the authenticity and locality of her wonderful story.

Starring the 12-year-old ingénue Waad Mohammed in the title role, the film might at first glance seem like a coming-of-age film for younger audiences, but it is slowly and thoroughly revealed to be one of the most effective criticisms of the stance of Saudi culture towards its female members, from young to old.It is a simple story: Young Wadjda is an only child her father chooses to stay with his own parents, who are on the search for a second wife for him since they can’t accept that Wadjda’s mother cannot bear a son for the family.

The girl’s mother is fixated on winning her father’s heart back and is deeply frustrated about the quest to find another woman — even though there isn’t much she can do about it. Despite this heavy burden on the family, Wadjda’s parents are loving and give ample freedom to the girl, who is one of the spunkiest characters you will ever meet.

She listens to rock music, she wears converse sneakers and jeans, she likes making jokes and is an extrovert who always stands up for herself. While these qualities might make her adorable and beguiling in our eyes, she is constantly told she should be more “modest” and “acquiescing.

”But Wadjda will have none of it. One day she sees her best friend Abdullah (Abdullrahman Al Gohani) riding a bike, and she decides she wants one as well.

The only problem is that women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to even drive a car, let alone a bicycle (for fear of the loss of virginity). Our girl sees that a nearby toyshop is selling a beautiful bicycle for $200.

She doesn’t have enough money so she first tries to sell handmade bracelets to the girls at her madrasah (school), but when she gets caught by the stern and hypocritical headmistress Hussa (Ahd) who is keen to keep a strictly religious regimen for her students, Wadja has to find another way to realize her dream When the school opens up a Quran recitation competition with ample prize money for the winner, she decides to compete.What is so brilliant about this film is that each and every character, mostly women, is written so well and in such a detailed manner that the personalities never fall into black and white categories of “repressed” or “rebellious.

” Mansour approaches all her subjects with compassion and eschews a judgmental approach, as she meticulously draws out for us the complications and practicalities of living in a sexist society and the female members of this society who try to make a bearable and happy existence for themselves in their own way. The dose of humor instilled in the story brings about a very accessible human element that refuses to sulk in the territory of misery or moroseness.

Yet this humor is exactly the proper technique to highlight the absurdities and injustices that Saudi women have to face every single day — by depending on men for transportation, accepting a polygamous lifestyle and, most importantly, limiting themselves to unexceptional achievements in their private lives.The unexpected and immensely satisfying finale is not an agitating shriek of simplistic rage, but a liberating statement of a point-of-view in which the power of female camaraderie and the unfaltering determination of individuals will duly bring about hard-earned autonomy and triumph.

It is also important to point out here that Abdullah is one of the most charming characters in this story, as an unspoiled and open-minded boy who would rather walk next to Wadjda instead of walking in front of her The sense of companionship and equality within the friendship of these two kids is not only inspiring, but exemplary.This charming and headstrong film is a must-watch, for women and especially for men.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman