2013 LAFF: Wadjda (****)

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WadjdaI would call ‘Wadjda‘ my favorite film in the Los Angeles Film Festival. The audience is brought into the complicated and conservative world of the Saudi people. The director and writer, , is also the first female filmmaker from Saudi Arabia. The story is about Wadjda, played by , a young trouble-maker who wants to buy a bike while living with her mother, , and dealing with life as a female in a culture in favor of men. Inspiring, empowering, and very moving Wadjda faces each issue and attempts to make it better, with the help of Abdullah, , the neighbor’s boy who wants to marry her one day.

In the film, one issues that constantly makes life difficult for Wadjda is the pressure of not being a boy. Because of this, her mother isn’t treated like a wife and, together, they face a complicated life. How they are seen, the manner in which others speak to them, and the level of disrespect they endure due to their being women was shown very well through the story and well composed shots. The few males in their lives proved to be weak and only did what they were told to do by the women, despite the public appearance. Without spoiling the ending, Wadjda comes into her own and her mother also comes to a level of acceptance of her daughter and how to live their lives in the complicated society.

Wadjda (helmet)There is a beauty in the innocence between Wadjda and Abdullah. Before the segregation between men and women hits them. Able to play as kids do but knowing that one day their relationship will be bound by the severe rules of their culture, for two children to pull off such complex character roles is a great accomplishment. From the beginning until the end, Abdullah helps and stays close to Wadjda, seeing her as a friend and comrade in games. But because of their culture, he even tells her at the end that he hopes to marry her one day, and that’s one of the sweetest parts of the story. Wadjda, having seen a ‘sinful’ relationship and successful and failed marriages, knows that growing up isn’t an option, but choosing what type of grownup she wants to be is still in her control, thus wears her shoes with purple laces and not her full head cloth. There is a give and take between the two of them that works for their relationship in the culture they live in, especially since they are still kids.

After watching many cultural pieces, this film stood out because of the sassyness of the girls despite their oppressive culture. From the beginning until the end, there’s not one girl in the film that the audience didn’t embrace. Everyone was motivated and very purposeful, both with pride and weaknesses. Though their clothes were restricted to the black robes, there were chances for bright colors and ‘sinful’ bracelets to be passed around and shared for the females. The score and sound were very well-done and an Oscar nomination wouldn’t be too surprising. The food looked delicious, the games looked fun, and most appreciated was Al-Mansour’s honest portrayal of the life in Saudi Arabia. An inspiring tale with beautiful characters and complete arcs, I highly recommend this film to everyone.