Wadjda is the simple tale of a ten year-old girl whose only desire is to buy a bicycle so she can race with her friends. This précis admittedly suggests a minor work, but when you consider that this is a film made in Saudi Arabia and directed by a woman, its true complexity and courage is revealed.
Haifaa al-Mansour's remarkable debut feature conveys female experience in Saudi Arabia through the eyes of her young title character, played with wonderful spirit and grace by Waad Mohammed. Throughout the picture she exposes us to everyday examples of the oppression that women of all ages face in this particularly patriarchal society. These points are beautifully integrated into her deceptively simple story, the political aspects of which are never allowed to overwhelm the human drama. A satisfying and skilfully made film is always something to celebrate, but largely due to the circumstances from which it arose, Wadjda feels like one of the year's most vital. [Philip Concannon]