I haven’t blogged for a while. Although I’ve been trying my best to keep up with the year’s new releases, my life and my priorities have changed somewhat and whilst still a nerdy, goofy film geek, I have been enjoying the other things that summer and London have to offer.
Cycling! Cycling has been one of those things; although still quite scared to do it alone in traffic, i’m definitely understanding all those cycling advocates with their mantra of “Faster!”, “Cheaper!”, “Healthier!”, “Environment!” So on a hot sunny weekend, I find myself loath to get on the tube when a ride along the canal will get me to the same place, with a little more sweat and a slightly better tan.
As with the joys of cinema and film, cycling, I am learning, also provides an easy escape. An escape from the day’s office stresses, escape from the pressures of family and relationships, escape from the city, the country. A ride around the park with time to think. A social meet up. A race. A pastime. A hobby. A way of life. A freedom and a choice.
Which brings me to my most recent trip to the cinema to see Wadjda, which will, most probably feature in my top ten of the year. Directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour, Wadjda is Saudi Arabia’s first feature film to be written and directed by a woman. With very few films being made in Saudi Arabia and hardly any cinemas since a ban in the 1980s, Wadjda makes impressive viewing, especially when its depiction of the unbelievable treatments towards women highlight how difficult the circumstances must have been to even make it in the first place.
The film tells the story of Wadjda (played by Waad Mohammed – a star in the making!), a feisty and rebellious young girl with a mostly absent father and a totally infectious smile. After her friend Abdullah cycles off from a fight and she is unable to chase him, Wadjda decides that she wants a bicycle, despite the fact that “girls don’t ride bikes” because, as her mother tells her, it will “stop her having babies”.
Wadjda is a dramatic mixture of frustrating anger and joyful hope; combining the humour that comes with young friendship and rivalry with the sad darkness of female oppression; where women and girls should not be heard laughing, or seen playing. Wadjda is inspiring and wonderful in her simple quest to buy the shiny green bike she spies one day and I believe it would be impossible for anyone to see this and not fall in love with her. The bike is, of course, a very obvious symbol of freedom and hope for women. The film’s existence and its resounding message are a happy indicator that progress has already begun. I loved it not just for what it represents, but it simply does what great films do and tells a story well; with heart and humour and pain. Yet context is all and this is likely to be one of the most important films of the year. Narratively involving and politically moving, this is why cinema will always be my fave.