In a country with no film industry—or, apparently, movie theaters—it’s understandable that in 2013 we’re seeing the first feature film directed by a Saudi Arabian woman. Her name is Haifaa al-Mansour, and after making a few shorts and a documentary, here is Wadjda, which received an Oscar nomination (and was her country’s first submission in the foreign language category). Naturally, al-Mansour’s film looks at life in Saudi Arabia for women. News flash: They don’t have it easy. The title character (played by Waad Mohammed) is a girl who really just wants a bicycle, and enters a Quran recital competition to get the funds for her dream. She is an unlikely heroine, perhaps especially in Saudi Arabia. The story is rather simplistic, but the look at the culture is definitely revealing, and al-Mansour—who took five years to make the film—is a director to watch.
Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Producer: Gerhard Meixner, Roman Paul, Amr Alkahtani, Christian Granderath, Bettina Ricklefs, Rena Ronson, Louise Nemschoff and Hala Sarhan
Cast: Reem Abdullah, Waad Mohammed, Abdullrahman Gohani, Ahd and Sultan Al Assaf