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Most of us can think back to our childhood and can remember owning a bike. It came with a sense of freedom and discovery; a sense of adventure that every child should be entitled to. It might seem like a simple request but this small symbol of independence is the core struggle of a young girl in Saudi Arabia, who wants to defy cultural norms and own her own bike.
I’m talking about “Wadjda”, the protagonist of the movie of the same name which is a recent German/Saudi-Arabian film collaboration directed by pioneering female Saudi director Haifa al-Mansour. Winning an array of awards since its release, including Dubai film festivals “Best feature” category, this film does not fail to deliver.
Set in Saudi Arabia, amidst the deeply rooted traditions and belief systems that are constantly being challenged by the changing world, we find the rebellious yet determined Wadjda and her (what she believes) innocent desire to own a bike. Like the boys in her community, she faces the same problems and struggles on a daily basis, to stay safe from harm whilst searching for ways to entertain themselves. Although Wadjda may not lack confidence or street smarts, the one own she does lack is a bike. For her it’s not just about being an equal; it’s about having the right to have something that her heart desires. No matter what the cost. And believe me; she tries both simple and dangerous methods. With trouble and turmoil lurking around every corner, she navigates herself through any turbulent situation that life throws at her, facing every issue with a cool sense of calm and moving continuously towards her main goal.
This movie does nothing but comfort and inspires its viewers. I was nervous whilst watching Wadjda on her journey towards attaining a bike and anticipated the worst at every twist and turn, yet I was pleasantly surprised by the tranquillity of the scenes and the ease with which Wadjda and her mother faced the barriers they encountered. The scenes were clean and crisp and they were not veiled by any symbolism that would make it difficult to get the message. Easy to follow and laced with just the right amount of humour, it was beautiful in its simplicity and realness.
I won’t spoil the movie and tell you what happens at the end, but I will tell you something I’ve learnt…you might not always get what you want but through courage, a little rebellion and support, you can triumph in the most unexpected situations.
A breath of fresh air, I highly recommend “Wadjda” as a delightful and inspiring movie with a positive message, that is a firm yet subtle commentary on some of the bigger issues in life.
By Farina Kokab
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham