Girl on a Bike
When Wadjda hit American theaters last year, everyone said, “Oh! Look at that!” That’s because it wasn’t just a film from Saudi Arabia, a country where no film had ever been entirely shot before, but also because it was directed by a woman. Now the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth is showing this trailblazing movie at the Modern.
The ingratiating Waad Mohammed plays the title character, a mischievous 10-year-old girl who decides to win her school’s Qu’ran-reciting contest so that she can use the prize money to buy a green bicycle she sees in a shop.
Director Haifaa al-Mansour had some logistical challenges of her own to overcome in making the film. Saudi restrictions on women meant that she couldn’t interact with her male crewmembers and had to give them instructions via walkie-talkie from a van. Her film bears the obvious influence of Iranian films in its small scale and child’s point of view, and if Wadjda doesn’t have the subtlety or depth of Iran’s masterpieces, it still gives us a window into a culture markedly different from our own, where video games teach Islamic history and women aren’t allowed to drive, giving Wadjda’s dream of getting around by herself its danger and its allure.