Saudi Arabia’s First Feature Film ‘Wadjda’ Hits German Theaters

on September 06 2013 5:13 AM
wadjda
Saudi Arabian director Haifaa al-Mansour (R) and actress Waad Mohammed pose with a bicycle on the red carpet during the premiere screening of "Wadjda" during the 69th Venice Film Festival in Venice August 31, 2012. Reuters

“Wadjda,” the first feature film ever to be made in Saudi Arabia, was released in Germany on Thursday, and one of its producers -- Roman Paul -- believes the movie will present a complex view of life in Saudi Arabia.

The movie is directed by Haifaa Al Mansour, who is the first Saudi Arabian woman to make a feature film, and chronicles the everyday life of a 11-year-old girl as she sets out to achieve her dream of owning a green bicycle.

It is against the law in Saudi Arabia for women and girls to ride a bicycle, but this is not a deterrent for the movie's young protagonist and the color green signifies her persistence in achieving her dream.

“The bike is green. It's a symbol of dreams that one can accomplish - even in the face of societal pressures - without harming anyone,” Paul told Deutsche Welle in an interview. “Wadjda wants to make her dreams come true. She gets no support, and only meets continual resistance. But she stays at it.”

The film’s director, Mansour, who is a Saudi woman married to an American, hopes women in Saudi Arabia can relate to the movie.

"I really wanted to set it in Saudi. I wanted women there to see something of their lives in this film,” Mansour told BBC in an interview in July. "It's a place where telling a story is not always easy and there were lots of things to stop me. I had a lot of boundaries placed around me, but it is worth it.”

Mansour had to direct the film -- shot mostly in the streets of Riyadh -- from a van and communicate with her actors through a walkie-talkie as she could not publicly mix with her crew, who were mostly men. In Saudi Arabia, there are restrictions on men and women working together.

"I just wanted to tell a simple story about girls, that still projected a deeper message about our society. There is always something fascinating about a character who won't give in," Mansour told BBC.

In Saudi Arabia, where there are no theatres, "Wadjda" cleared the nation's censors and will be telecast on television, and in the U.S., the movie will have a limited release on Sep. 13.

"Wadjda" has already won accolades on the international film circuit, and on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie review aggregator, the film received a 100 percent rating.

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