Wadjda is the first feature length film made by a female Saudi Arabian director. Restrictions meant that Haifa al Mansour took five years to make the film and often had to work out of the back of a van because she wasn't allowed to mix publically with the film crew.
The result though is a wonderful film, beautifully made and acted. The story is a simple one, Wadjda, an 11 year old girl, wants to buy a bicycle so she can race with her friend Abdullah. But girls aren't supposed to ride bikes and Wadjda's family won't buy her one. Desperate for the cash, she enters the school Koran reciting competition. Meanwhile her father is looking for a second wife as Wadjda's mother can't have any more children and he wants a son.
The film gives huge insights into the restrictions Saudi society places on women and how young girls, full of natural curiosity and talent, are gradually cowed and moulded for a future with very narrow horizons. It isn't at all a heavy worthy film though, the characters are engaging and there's a lot of humour in the story.
Wadjda is showing today and tomorrow at Filmhouse, Edinburgh.