Before I delve into its message; the cast itself was excellent, the children were brilliant actors, Wadjda was a wonderfully bolshie little girl who fought hard to achieve her goals and was clearly a very independent thinker for a child of her age. The headmistress was so infuriating that she deserved an award of her own. The movie has been heralded by ‘Western’ audiences as illuminating, ‘boundary-pushing’ and brave and the creator has received no end of compliments and interviews with influential audiences. If Wadjda was not created by a Saudi woman, I wonder whether it would have received similar acclaim as its archaic message of the stereotypically oppressive atmosphere in Saudi has been justified by her background and Wadjda’s backdrop could have just as easily been created by someone with very little knowledge of the country. The representation of Saudi Arabia, in this case, fits very neatly through the Orientalist lens of the Western perception of Riyadh’s reality. Having visited Saudi years ago, I could not comment on the general standard of life there for men and women today, but this film is not representative of a whole culture as some have taken it to be. The view that all the men have second wives, that women should cover their faces, that any form of expression by women is shameful and that those women must hide themselves from the gaze of men rather than men having to work at lowering their gazes, were all confirmed by this film. Whilst sure that attitudes such as this do exist in Saudi, as they do all across the globe, the film reaffirmed the very bleak and oppressive image of the life women lead in the Middle East. I did enjoy Haifa Al-Mansour’s exploration into the internal dichotomy many Arabs experience in adhering to the ‘tradition’ which conflicts with their own characters and ideals, the trials of coming of age and the simple pleasures of youth. Potentially in part a victim of the hype surrounding it, Wadjda failed to surprise me, entice me and challenge perceptions I wish to see challenged.
Have you seen this film? Leave your thoughts below!