Friday, September 13, 2013

Looking Forward to Wadjda

Have you heard of Wadjda? It's the first movie made entirely in Saudi Arabia, and what's more, it was written and directed by a Saudi woman, Haifaa Al Mansour. I caught a bit of an interview that Michele Martin did with her on Tell Me More yesterday, and I was so intrigued.

As is well known, it's not easy to be a female film director, but the challenges are certainly multiplied when you are making your film in Saudi Arabia, a country that places many restrictions on women. For example, women are not able to drive there and they've only recently been allowed to bicycle in public. Here's what Al Mansour said about directing in Saudi Arabia:
...the country is very conservative, and sometimes when we go outside, we film all the outdoors activities because the country is segregated and woman and woman are not supposed to mix together. I had to film from a van, and I had a walkie-talkie and a monitor and I was always confined in that space.
As I've mentioned, my partner is a filmmaker and I've been on many of his sets. I can only imagine how frustrating it was to not be able to get as close to the action as you might like, but I'm glad that Al Monsour worked around that challenge. She also went on to share with Martin how she created the Wadjda character:
When I was writing "Wadjda," I based her a lot on one of my nieces who has a great sense of humor, who was a hustler. And she's always scheming to earn money somewhere. But my brother became conservative and she changed. And a lot of the girls I went to school with, and I went to public school, are like that. Like they - when they were kids, they had so much to offer to the world, but because the world is very - their families and the small society around them is very limiting. They gave up so much. And I wanted to make a film that tells them that they shouldn't. That they should be true to themselves and continue and embrace their potential. And they - those girls can change the world if they are given the chance and if they believe in themselves. 
That's certainly a film I want to see. I'll be keeping an eye out for it at my local art house cinema.

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