This Saudi Arabian gem from the country's first woman director is one of the most remarkable and important films of the year.
How do you shoot a film entirely within a country in which the medium itself has been virtually outlawed? That was the unenviable challenge faced by director Haifaa Al Mansour, and it's one she's surmounted quite magnificently.
The first film to be made entirely within Suadi Arabia, from the nation's first woman filmmaker, and featuring a sensational child performance from newcomer Waad Mohammed, Wadjda is proof positive that something exciting is happening in the Arab world.
Ten-year-old Wadjda lives with her mother (Reem Abdullah) in a suburb of Saudi capital Riyadh, where they're visited intermittently by Sultan Al Assaf's affectionate father who wants something his wife cannot give him: a son. While Wadjda's mother is engaged in an emotional tug-of-war with her husband's family, who are trying to convince him to take a second wife, Wadjda has a battle of her own to fight.
Obsessed with the idea of racing her friend Abdullah (Abdullrahman Al Gohani) after spying a shiny green bicycle for sale, Wadjda takes it upon herself to raise the money after her mother refuses to buy it for her. From her child's point of view, the seems no logical reason that girls shouldn't be allowed to ride bikes like the boys in her neighbourhood. And so she thinks up a few half-baked money-making schemes that quickly get her in trouble at her strict all-girls' school.
Al Mansour's witty and affectionate feminist drama depicts contemporary Arab society in a way that is by turns authentic and honest. But it's the underlying indignation towards the current role and treatment of women in the Arab world that makes this a film that demands to be noticed.