An 11-year-old girl in Saudi Arabia, wearing sneakers and a T-shirt with the words "I'm a Catch!" printed on it in large font, is helping her mother in the kitchen when she plainly declares that she wants a bike. It is this scene that beautifully encapsulates what is so refreshingly defiant about the Independent Spirit and BAFTA award-nominated drama, WADJDA.
Writer/director Haifaa Al-Mansour (the first ever Saudi Arabian female filmmaker) tells the oft-untold story of what it means to be a woman in the conservative Saudi capital of Riyadh, through the eyes of a young girl (Waad Mohammed) who's determined to challenge it at every turn. While her mother (Reem Abdullah) spends her days doing household chores and desperate to convince her husband not to take on a second wife, Wadjda has her heart set on a shiny new bicycle that will finally allow her the freedom to race her best friend, a boy named Abdullah (Abdullrahman Al Gohani). It is that fearless rebellion that sets Wadjda apart from her peers, those who can impressively recite the Qur'an with no hesitation and never neglect to wear their veils like she often does. Wadjda is the ultimate revolutionary, even if she's not really trying to be.
A moving film that is punctuated by two heartening debut performances WADJDA never stops to second guess itself in its intent or declaration. Al-Mansour's assured style and intrepid pursuit of personal truth catapults her to the top of the list of filmmakers to watch.
Rating: A (***** out of *****)