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Review of "WADJDA"
By Jayne Waterford
Copyrighted © Jayne Waterford, 2014. Written 19th March 2014. Revised 20th March 2014. Revised 10th April 2014. Revised 17th May 2014. Revised 3rd January 2015.
REVIEW: "WADJDA" by Jayne Waterford

Haifaa Al Mansour's "WADJDA" (2012) centres on a respectable 12 year old girl who lives at home with her mum and dad. Her world is safe. It's the kind of world where she can make a pact with a bicycle vendor by making him a personally mixed tape. Her milieu is circumspect. And the film itself seems a study in appropriate. However, once the sweet things happening around her stack up she seems to be a pin ball falling through a machine with a pink floral motif who made it through the gate without being hit by a stick.

Cinematography did some astonishing things without making suburban elements seem unusual. Under the director of photography Lutz Reitemeier's lens and lights they became extraordinary. Kettles floated on the stove in Wadjda's beautiful Mother's kitchen and a bunch of girls singing with sudden bravado in stone blue smocks burst through the screen.

Aunty Leila (Sara Aljaber) takes the pantomime of moving around outside the home to its natural conclusion. The constant state of getting ready, of standing behind doors so you can't be seen, of ducking, of being invisible from the black shadow of where you stood in a family portrait to a dinner party you host without appearing. Personally, I don't mind the idea of burkas. I've thought of buying some for

myself outside. I suspect I'd find it quite emancipating. Though draping a cloth over your face entirely as you leave a building seemed somehow extreme.

One gets the impression that no great shakes are happening in Wadjda's suburban life. Everyone is very accepting of their place in society. Mother has a dreamy crush on her husband and Wadjda is a good girl. It's so ordinary in fact that with every symptom of every door closed on their world I found myself rationalising. Wadjda wears jeans and a teenager's torn shoes under her burka and heaps of decorations in her hair. No one thinks it's weird. There are magical reveals disguised as the ordinary everyday throughout this film. Wadjda's neighbours and family seem to live in domestic bliss but the women of Saudi Arabia are treading water all the while. No matter how perfectly they live their lives there is no saving them from decisions made by respectful, kind and appreciative men on a whim. In "WADJDA" the issues of oppression are not clouded by any hint of undeserving. No matter how perfect or good or loving they are not safe from power wielded ficklely. There is no one to stop their hearts being ripped in two. While this is enabled by the dominant culture the significance of their lives will remain low.

I'm reminded of Eliza (Adepero Oduye) explaining tearfully, "I have

done dishonourable things... to survive... Yet here I am!" to Solomun Northup (Academy Award*reg; winner Chiwetel Ejiofor) in Steve McQueen's "12 YEAR'S A SLAVE" (2013). Women: Things to be coveted? People without souls? This is the blight of property. People defined as property cannot change their situation. They cannot determine their outcome.

In our own culture (here in Australia) women can be employed for less than men and so are a competitive thorn in the side of white Australian male workers. And then, finally, the Aboriginal people are coming through. If anything seriously disturbing goes wrong at work for an Aboriginal person they can be pensioned off for 5% of the value of their salary under the heading Has Financially Supportive Extended Family making them an even more economical proposition and all supported by law. [As long as it's not happening to you, right?] The nonsense underpinning this circumstance seems to be that if everyone received the wage equal to the dominant person in our culture, then he will be affected adversely, which of course he will not. It's a fantasy. Though his circumstances will not have diminished he will simply be less able to to display dominance relative to everyone whom at the moment necessarily earns less because everyone will have the same capacity for display. Dominant man in any culture, you should be

campaigning for equality for all people before the law otherwise your livelihood remains in jeopardy. I wonder if women and Aboriginal men get lighter sentences for the same crimes committed by white men due to their lower earning capacity? Perhaps campaigning for equal penalties is the place to begin? The thing working against equality on every level of course is the vested interest of every individual. For every change there is someone who loses an advantage. And all the while, while you're married to the man you're crazy about and confident in his loyalty, there is no problem. While you have a job and regular income, while nothing's wrong, all is right.

If there is a weakness in this film it is also a strength. The story is about the child. Her Mother's story is told through exposition, as she would explain her experiences to her young daughter. So win/win. It's still about the child.

Ultimately, the cause of Mother's devastation seems whimsical. But in the end one doesn't even wonder what would have happened to Wadjda if things had been different for her Mother. She has been allowed to be a loved child who comes to know both exhilaration and very mature feelings by the film's end. Wadjda's personal emancipation, almost crushed by the behaviour police at school was afforded by her heart-sore Mother and given wings by love. It feels

like the beginning of something. I think it is the beginning of something. That "WADJDA" has been made is a sign that things have begun.

"WADJDA" is a wonderful film whose themes follow you outside and dog your way home. Their predicament does not impact on you when you're watching the film. It chases you and hits you with full force when the exit is in sight.

Masterful film making. 10/10

Copyrighted ©: Jayne Waterford, 2014.

Haifaa Al Mansour's
"WADJDA" (2012)

Director Haifaa Al Mansour
Producers
Stars Waad Mohammed and Reem Abdullah
Release Date
Category Drama
Running Time 97 minutes (1 hour, 37 minutes)
Rating PG
Origin Saudi Arabia
Awards
Coda

Distributor Hopscotch Film
Official Blurb "To shoot a film on location in a country where cinemas themselves have been banned for over thirty years is an achievement for any director. When that filmmaker also happens to be a woman, in a country where it is illegal for women to drive or vote, makes Haifaa Al Mansourís accomplishment with her debut feature WADJDA all the more impressive. Most remarkably of all, itís a masterful film filled with humour, emotion and
humanism.

Wadjda is a 10-year-old girl living in a suburb of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Although she lives in a conservative world, Wadjda is fun loving, entrepreneurial and rebellious. Sheís determined to fight for her dreams, which include saving enough money to buy a bicycle, so she can race her friend Abdullah. Wadjda lives at home with her parents, who are loving if a little distracted. Her father isnít around much, and her mother is convinced heís busy looking for a second wife. The story is tailored to highlight the pressures and difficulties faced by women in Saudi Arabia, with a rare glimpse into the lives of women behind closed doors and the warm relationships between mothers and daughters. WADJDA, like Iranís A Separation, is a fascinating, honest, hugely satisfying film, both boundary-pushing in all the best ways and a thrilling cinematic achievement." - Hopscotch Film PR