Sunday, 7 July 2013

Wadjda and freedom as represented by the bicycle

At the tender age of 4 years old I approached the sailing club coach and told him i wanted to join the sailing team. You see, my father used to sail competitively; my brother too. The coach laughed and said, "learn how to write your own name first". So, i went to my mum and asked her to show me how to write my name; the next day i asked her to also show me how to write her name, my father's name and my brother's name; just in case. I didn't ask her to show me how to write our surname; Greek surnames are quite long-and i guess i knew my limitations. I went back to the coach, smiled and wrote everyone's name on a piece of cardboard and then asked if i could race a boat; a few years later I was given the worst boat to sail; it was heavy and half broken - but it was my boat. I started sailing daily and  by the age of 13 i was competing against the boys - i was the only girl which  meant that any qualifiers for world championships were earned as one of the boys - no special girls' category. 

I was reminded of that when i heard of Wadjda. A film about a 10 year old girl,who sees a beautiful green bike and wants to buy it so she can race her friend Abdullah. Wadjda's mother, though, does not allow this, riding bikes is frowned upon for girls and Wadjda's mother refuses to buy one for her daughter, so Wadjda decides to raise the funds herself. The film raises the themes of tradition, gender and freedom.

The other point of  parallel and interest to this film is ofcourse its director and writer, Haifaa Al-Mansour:  the first female Saudi film maker, making the first full-length feature to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. Looks like there may be a bit of Haifaa is Wadjda?

"the universal theme of a person trying to achieve regardless of their circumstances and the fight for life, the desire to go out and succeed in something you really want despite what is happening around you." Haifaa Al-Mansour

UK Cinema release date is 19th July