Fire, ash and bull­dust

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews -

re­al­ity. Wadjda is par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive be­cause it’s not only the first fea­ture film made in Saudi Ara­bia, a coun­try where there are ap­par­ently no cin­e­mas, but it was made by a young woman, Haifaa Al Man­sour. It’s a sim­ple story about a 10-year-old tomboy, beau­ti­fully played by Waad Mo­hammed, who longs to have a bi­cy­cle so that she can race her friend, Ab­dul­lah (Ab­dull­rah­man Al Go­hani), but in a coun­try where women aren’t al­lowed to drive cars, girls who ride bikes are also frowned on. From such a sim­ple premise, Al Man­sour ex­plores the role of women and girls in this ex­tremely pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­ety, with­out seem­ing to preach or to in­dulge in over-em­pha­sis.

Wadjda lives with her mother (Reem Ab­dul­lah) in what ap­pears to be a sub­urb of Riyadh; she’s happy enough, but she sel­dom sees her fa­ther (Sul­tan Al As­saf), who lives with his par­ents nearby. The ten­sion in the house­hold stems from the fact the fa­ther is be­ing pres­sured by his par­ents to take a sec­ond wife who can give him a son. At school, Wadjda’s sense of self and in­de­pen­dence (she wears sneak­ers, talks too loudly, lis­tens to pop songs) have aroused the ire of her head­mistress ( Ahd Kamel), but Wadjda takes lit­tle no­tice of her ad­mo­ni­tions; she’s feisty and in­de­pen­dent and you want to ap­plaud her as she sin­gle-mind­edly goes about try­ing to raise enough money to buy the green bi­cy­cle tan­ta­lis­ingly dis­played at a store near her home.

For a first film from a coun­try where film­mak­ing is un­known, Wadjda is a re­mark­able achieve­ment; it was made in col­lab­o­ra­tion with a Ger­man com­pany, and most of the tech­ni­cal crew, in­clud­ing cam­era­man Lutz Reit­e­meier, are Ger­man. When Al Man­sour, who was partly ed­u­cated in Aus­tralia, vis­ited here last year for the Syd­ney Film Fes­ti­val, where her film was in com­pe­ti­tion (but lost out to the ap­palling Only God For­gives) she spoke of the dif­fi­cul­ties she had di­rect­ing, es­pe­cially the lo­ca­tion scenes, be­cause she couldn’t be seen to be giv­ing or­ders to men. Yet she has suc­ceeded tri­umphantly in over­com­ing all ob­sta­cles; by any stan­dards, this a fine, mov­ing film and es­sen­tial view­ing for any­one who cares about con­tem­po­rary cin­ema. NIGE­RIAN di­rec­tor Biyi Ban­dele’s epic Half of a Yel­low Sun is an adap­ta­tion of a 450-page novel that com­bines an ex­am­i­na­tion of the sav­age Nige­rian Civil War (1967-70) with a per­sonal story about the lives of twin sis­ters. Olanna (Thandie New­ton) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) are the daugh­ters of a suc­cess­ful La­gos busi­ness­man; they are well ed­u­cated (both stud­ied in Lon­don) and at­trac­tive but they are soon faced with the grim re­al­ity of tribal war­fare and mass killings. Olanna, whose lover, Odenigbo (Chi­we­tel Ejio­for), is a rad­i­cal aca­demic, flees to the “in­de­pen­dent” state of Bi­afra but can’t es­cape the con­flict while Kainene, whose lover is Richard (Joseph Mawle), an English­man, faces equally daunt­ing prob­lems.

This epic ap­proach to a ter­ri­ble con­flict in­cor­po­rates news­reels and maps to make things clearer for the unini­ti­ated. It’s an im­pres­sive film on many lev­els, and a sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment for the em­bry­onic Nige­rian film in­dus­try.

Kit Har­ing­ton in Pom­peii, top; Chi­we­tel Ejio­for and Thandie New­ton in Half of a Yel­low Sun, above left; and Waad Mo­hammed and Ab­dull­rah­man Al Go­hani in Wadjda, above right

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.