Wednesday 24 July 2013

Film: 'WADJDA'

I'd really wanted to like this well-received film more, but my hoped-for pleasure was distracted most of the time, though it was not the fault of the film itself.
This is a film remarkable for being made in Saudi Arabia by a Saudi Arabian woman, Haifaa Al-Mansour, as both director and writer - perhaps a small but not insignificant indication that that essentially closed-society country may be starting to shed something of its insularity.

The main strand concerns the titular schoolgirl who sets her heart on buying a bicycle - in the first place in order to race her young boy pal, the two of whom share a playfully joshing friendship. Riding a bicycle is considered an unacceptable thing to do for a young girl (or, indeed, for any female) in this patriarchal society where the conduct of females is severely constrained.
The part of the story concerning the bicycle doesn't actually overwhelm the film. Several other strands are in play, mainly the girl's education where the (female) teachers, inside the school, wear westernized dress and hair-styles (as does the girl's mother at home) but when they go outside all have to be shapelessly black-robed from head to foot (girls with head covered), with just the letter-box slit for the eyes, and sometimes not even that. And it's this part that really got me distracted. There was nothing in the film we didn't already know about, but seeing how women have to conduct themselves, under pain of law, when non-familial men may be nearby got to me, especially as here when it's presented as an 'incidental' of no great argument in an otherwise quite admirable film. (When I get angry I'm unable to externalise it, even when there's the opportunity to do so. I always leave it seething inside which, I know, is unhealthy - and I found myself doing this during a large part of this film).
Compounding this, the schoolgirl, in order to acquire money to purchase the bike, decides to take part in a school competition for knowledge of and recitation from the Qur'an. I suppose this is not very different from my own schooldays when we were forced to learn the Catechism by heart and be tested on it by a (usually cantankerous) priest, ever eager to pounce on the slightest error. But seeing the same thing going on again with children at a vulnerable age brought up my anger once more. But, as I say, we all know it goes on right now in many parts of the world. (Incidentally, for years I've been reading a page from the Qur'an daily, as well as a chapter from the Bible - though both, I must stress, not for devotional reasons - rather the reverse, in fact.)

Another strand of the story concerns the girl's mother at home - glamorous, once she's discarded her outside-wear black robes - and the cooled relationship with her husband who's on the search to take a second wife. He is also 'westernised', (plays TV games) and actually does not appear to be an unreasonable guy, at least on the surface..

The film, I suppose, takes a predictable path - with one rather unexpected (to me) 'blip' towards the end.
But overall, it was satisfactory.
If I'd been able to detach my own feelings and just sit back and watch it dispassionately I might have appreciated it more than I did. But even so, it gets from me a quite reasonable, though unspectacular, score of...........................6.


  1. I hadn't heard of it Ray so thanks for the introduction. I like the sound of it. Remarkable that a film from KSA about a girl and made by a woman should come to market. Quite remarkable really given their outdated customs.

    1. Yes, I suppose it's the fact that a film like this got made at all which is the wonder of it. But it's a hopeful sign.

  2. I greatly admire your knowledge in movies - most of the time I have never heard of them. I enjoy reading your reviews, feeling I am some how 'seeing the movie' without the $ to actually see them!

    1. Well, I'm pleased to read that I could be saving you money, Dr Spo, though I feel that there must be cases where our opinions would differ radically should you also see a particular film in question.
      As a matter of fact many films come and go which I badly want to see but have to miss because of (a) not having sufficient funds and (b) reluctance to leave my pussies for too long or too frequently. I always spend a large part of the time away from home worrying that I'm not on hand to meet their demands. Sad, I know, but there it is.

      My cinema-going frequency is a mere fraction of what it used to be in the years from around 1966-2000. During all but the last 10 years of that period I had the resources to see just about anything I wanted to (and did) - and during that whole time I didn't have pets to care for.