Kate Dries spotlights Wadjda, Saudi Arabia’s first feature film directed by a woman:
It’s the story of a 10-year-old girl named, yes, Wadjda, living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She’s described as “sarcastic, funny and streetwise,” all reasons that she decides to compete in a Koran memorization competition at her school to win money to buy a bicycle. To make the movie, the filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour dealt with the kind of obstacles that would make an entertaining movie itself: because men and women are not allowed to interact in public in Saudi Arabia, she says “It was a major obstacle to go out in the street and talk to my actors.”
How she adjusted:
[Mansour] spent much of her time directing from the back of a van. “I could only go outside with my film crew when we had permission, so it was difficult,” she says. She frequently had to rely on walkie-talkies and watching scenes unfold on a monitor to direct her actors. “It made me realize the need to rehearse and to develop an understanding for each scene before we shot it.”
Recall that it was only a few months ago that riding a bicycle was even allowed for women in Saudi Arabia.