Wadjda [2012] ★★★½

37298Can I tell you how thrilled I am that I got to see this movie? Part of the response comes from the excitement of discovery: a writer-director from Saudi Arabia,Haifaa Al Mansour, making her feature debut, and creating a movie that is both entertaining and thought provoking. The hype-meisters of moviedom have made it difficult to use words like “powerful” and “inspiring” without sounding like a huckster…but when you see a film as moving and well-wrought as “Wadjda” it’s hard to resist. The setting is a small Saudi town, where a 10-year-old girl growing up in a world built upon rules and restrictions dreams of buying a bicycle (prohibited for girls to ride) to prove that she can race faster than her friend Abdullah. “We know it’s a conservative society. We know the situation of women isn’t the best. I didn’t want to talk in the language of us being victims. I wanted to talk in the language of a character that achieves success” said Al Mansour. Her movie manages to weave humor into its essentially serious story and reveal layers of its central character’s personality step by step. Yet what I admire most about the picture is its restraint. Al Mansour has enough faith in her story, her actors, and most of all her audience, that she doesn’t feel the need to underscore or overstate her emotional points. She chose great faces, as well as great actors, to bring her characters to life, and they manage to convey an enormous amount with a very clever dialogue. “Wadjda” is a richly rewarding film that deserves to find an appreciative audience. I daresay you won’t soon forget it.

Rating: 3.5/4

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