Tag Archives: women directors

I’m Having My Own Oscars: 2017

We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!

Best Films 

  1. Lady Bird (dir. Greta Gerwig)
  2. Loveless (dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev)
  3. Western (dir. Valeska Grisebach)
  4. On Body and Soul (dir. Ildikó Enyedi)
  5. Call Me By Your Name (dir. Luca Guadagnino)
  6. Raw (dir. Julia Docournau)
  7. mother! (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
  8. Wajib (dir. Annemarie Jacir)
  9. Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)
  10. 20th Century Women (dir. Mike Mills)
  11. Lady Macbeth (dir. William Oldroyd)
  12. The Levelling (dir. Hope Dickson Leach)
  13. The Square (dir. Ruben Östlund)
  14. The Ornithologist (dir. João Pedro Rodrigues)
  15. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
  16. Mudbound (dir. Dee Rees)
  17. The Other Side of Hope (dir. Aki Kaurismäki)
  18. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (dir. Martin McDonagh)
  19. Foxtrot (dir. Samuel Maoz)
  20. Holy Air (dir. Shady Srour)
  21. Daphne (dir. Peter Mackie Burns)
  22. Heartstone (dir. Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson)
  23. The Shape of Water (dir. Guillermo del Toro)
  24. Detroit (dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
  25. Blade Runner 2045 (dir. Denis Villeneuve)

I am still planning on writing a few additional reviews for some of the films above (as well as for Wind River that I just recently watched and was somewhat disappointed with) – but for now, here’s a link to a podcast where I talked about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It’s in Slovene though, so an English version is definitely coming soon!

What about 2016? Here are my favourite films from last year.

What white people have to do, is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place, because I’m not a nigger, I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it.

James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro

Best Documentaries

  1. Austerlitz (dir. Sergey Loznitsa)
  2. I Am Not Your Negro (dir. Raoul Peck)
  3. The Family (dir. Rok Biček)
  4. Playing Men (Matjaž Ivanišin)
  5. Safari (dir. Ulrich Seidl)
  6. Machines (dir. Rahul Jain)
  7. Whose Streets? (dir. Sabaah Folayan)
  8. Strong Island (dir. Yance Ford)
  9. Liberation Day (dir. Uģis Olte & Morten Traavik)
  10. Kedi (dir. Ceyda Torun)

lady-bird-film (1).jpg

Best Women-Directed Films

For the longest time, I thought I was doing my part when it came to women directors; that I am watching as many films made by women as possible, that I am absolutely doing my part at helping the cause. But around 2015, after reviewing the list of films I watched in the past year, I realised that I was living in a bubble – less than 10% of the films I’ve seen every year have been made by women. And I decided to flip that percentage around.

Now, I believe many will stop at this point and say: but hey, there’s not even enough films made by women to do this! Or even if they are, they probably aren’t any good. I am not going to say that every film written or directed by a woman is automatically good – far from it, just as with male directors, there’s a number of them that are pure crap and almost unbearable to sit through (I am quite sad to say that three out of four “worst films” of the year that you will find below were directed by women). But there’s also so many of them that are REALLY good, even if they are not as well known as, let’s say, films by Scorsese or some other big-shot male Hollywood names. Here’s 15 of them that I liked most this past year – for a more extensive list, visit my Letterboxd page:

  1. Lady Bird (dir. Greta Gerwig)
  2. Western (dir. Valeska Grisebach)
  3. On Body and Soul (dir. Ildikó Enyedi)
  4. Raw (dir. Julia Ducournau)
  5. Wajib (dir. Annemarie Jacir)
  6. The Levelling (dir. Hope Dickson Leach)
  7. Mudbound (dir. Dee Rees)
  8. Detroit (dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
  9. Let the Sun Shine In (Claire Denis)
  10. Beach Rats (dir. Eliza Hittman)
  11. Sami Blood (dir. Amanda Kernell)
  12. I Am Not a Witch (dir. Rungano Nyoni)
  13. Miss Stevens (dir. Julia Hart)
  14. Band Aid (dir. Zoe Lister-Jones)
  15. Landline (dir. Gillian Robespierre)

Most underrated films

  1. Princess Cyd (dir. Stephen Cone)
  2. Patti Cake$ (dir. Geremy Jasper)
  3. Person to Person (dir. Dustin Guy Defa)
  4. The Incredible Jessica James (dir. Jim Strouse)

Best animated features

  1. Window Horses (dir. Ann Marie Fleming)
  2. Loving Vincent (dir. Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman)
  3. Louise by the Shore (dir. Jean-François Laguionie)
  4. Nuts! (dir. Penny Lane)

Best short animation films

  1. The Box (dir. Dušan Kastelic)
  2. Manivald (dir. Chintis Lundgren)
  3. Debiut (dir. Katarzyna Kijek)
  4. Xoxo Hugs and Kisses (dir. Wiola Sowa)
  5. The Blissful Accidental Death (dir. Sergiu Negulici)
  6. Ježeva kuća (dir. Eva Cvijanović)
  7. The Best Customer (dir. Serghei Chiviriga)
  8. Surpresa (dir. Paulo Patricio)

Biggest disappointments

  1. Requiem for Mrs J. (dir. Bojan Vuletić)
  2. Wonder Woman (dir. Patty Jenkins)
  3. Let Him Be a Basketball Player (dir. Boris Petkovič)

Worst films of the year

  1. Fifty Shades Darker (dir. James Foley)
  2. The Bad Batch (dir. Ana Lily Amirpour)
  3. Fun Mom Dinner (dir. Alethea Jones)
  4. Rough Night (dir. Lucia Aniello)

Best actresses

  1. Saoirse Ronan /Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)
  2. Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  3. Emily Beecham (Daphne)
  4. Garance Marillier (Raw)
  5. Cate Blanchett (Manifesto)
  6. Maruša Majer (Ivan)
  7. Annette Bening / Greta Gerwig (20th Century Women)
  8. Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)
  9. Carey Mulligan / Mary J. Blige (Mudbound)
  10. Juliette Binoche (Let the Sunshine In)
  11. Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth)

Best actors

  1. Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
  2. Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)
  3. Barry Keoghan (The Killing of a Sacred Deer)
  4. Claes Bang (The Square)
  5. John Boyega / Will Poulter / Algee Smith (Detroit)
  6. Mohammad Bakri / Saleh Bakri (Wajib)
  7. Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  8. Adam Sandler (The Meyerowitz Stories)
  9. Garrett Hedlund (Mudbound)
  10. Javier Bardem (mother!)
  11. Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name)

 

Me Before You (2016): a manic pixie Cinderella finds her Prince Charming

Lou Clark is a British Manic Pixie Dream Girl whose main purpose in life is to bring happiness and the will to live to the male protagonist with her naive happy-go-lucky attitude, kooky fashion style, unrealistically positive outlook on life and a constant smile on her face (that in all honesty makes her look more mentally unstable than anything else). If this sounds like a story that we have heard a thousand times before it is because it is true – and Me Before You hardly does anything that would elevate the narrative above any of the films that came before it. It all begins after Lou unexpectedly loses her job at the bakery where she got stuck working for far too long and starts searching for a new employment. Her being from a working-class family and completely unqualified for most of the jobs on the market does not make it easy for her to figure out what to do next – at least until the aristocratic family of the region doesn’t call out in need of an assistant. Unaware how this would change her life forever, she accepts the job and makes it her top priority to teach her patient how to love life again. But it is ultimately Prince Charming who recently suffered a horrible, life-changing incident that comes to the rescue to our Manic Pixie Cinderella.

While the film firmly leads us into believing that it is all about Lou showing Will the meaning and joys of life, You Before Me soon changes the direction and instead shifts into something very different. For it is ultimately him, the aristocratic son, who shows her what life is really about: foreign films, classical movies and exotic travels. He shows her how fantastic and more fulfilling life is among the “cultivated”, richer and privileged – and it hardly comes as a surprise when she eventually ends up falling in love with him (or rather, with the life that he represents).

Now, I do not want to imply that it is impossible to fall in love with a disabled person – but I do want to point out how utterly ridiculous and unnecessary the choice to make the quadriplegic character an English aristocrat was. I would guess that most of the people who were unfortunate enough to have had an illness or an accident that left them in a wheelchair do not belong to the 1%, nor do they have a family who has the means to re-build their entire house and change the stables (!) into a new apartment where everything is easily accessible. While the film would certainly like us to believe that it is about quadriplegia and the impossibly complex question of life and death that such a condition usually brings with it, I do not believe that this is the case here. Him being in a wheelchair seems more like a plot-device that helps Lou’s character to develop and that makes us somewhat more invested into the love story that would never had happened if it weren’t for his unfortunate condition (since it is more than obvious that he would not have spend a minute of his time with this simple, uneducated, overly-nice and naive girl if he would still have been his old, healthy self).

Lou (played by Emilia Clarke) is a plain and uninteresting character that does not do much but spend time with her family and her self-involved boyfriend. She does not seem to have friends outside of this circle of people and she sure does not seem to have any interests in life (besides fashion; the most stereotypical female interest there is). She is also one of the least independent women I have seen portrayed in cinema lately – the kind of a woman who lets men to take her for granted and who never expresses her discomfort or disagreement because she does not want to offend anybody. And it is not until she meets a sarcastic, cynical, well-educated, well-travelled and rich beyond our comprehension Will Traynor (played by Sam Claflin) that she reaches her full potential and blossoms into a curious and exciting new woman who leaves her old life behind and moves to Paris. She is a modern-day Cinderella and she needed her Prince Charming to be able to transform from the simple girl that let people walk all over her into a woman that does what she wants. She needed the Prince to be able to escape from her simple-minded athlete of a boyfriend and a family that was keeping her stuck in her unexciting hometown. So, despite the all-women crew that worked behind the camera and despite the novel being written by a woman as well, this movie ends up being just another story where a woman needs a man to succeed in life.

At least they do not get their happily ever after, something that I thought would somehow save this insufferable tearjerker. However, it turned out that even his death could not have saved the film. I do believe that euthanasia should be a possible option for all people who are not able to end their own life – however, this is a very complex matter and a very hard choice to make for each individual; something that the film does not emphasize at all. For Will living is not an option, not ever. I would have expected this decision being approached to more delicately, as I would also preferred the film to focus on his decision-making process and not only on the furious reactions of people around him, unable to accept his (selfish, at least from the film’s point of view) decision. We do not get to know him well enough to know what exactly is it that makes his life so insufferable – is it the awful feeling of being a burden to the people around him? Or is it really just because he cannot return to Paris for his ego cannot handle Parisian women not turning around anymore when he would pass them on the sidewalk? Because he cannot go skiing in the Swiss Alps anymore? Or go sky-diving? And jumping off a cliff? Because if so, this is a shitty reason; he has done and seen more things in his 20+ years than most people will ever do in their lifetime. And they do not seem to commit suicide over that. The bottom line is therefore this: His reasons for not wanting to live anymore seemed superficial and ultimately disrespectful to all disabled people who deserved a better portrayal as well as a more meaningful contribution to the conversations and dilemmas about euthanasia and assisted death.

The Basics:
Directed by: Thea Sharrock
Written by: Jojo Moyes (based on her novel)
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance, Matthew Lewis
Running Time: 110 minutes
Year: 2016
Rating: 2

 

Into the Forest (2015): survivalist feminist drama

The scene opens with Patricia Rozema’s camera taking a mystical walk through the woods and Cat Power’s mesmerizing voice singing Wild is the Wind, before stopping at a secluded family house situated on the edge of the forest – a house that despite its physical closeness seems to be extremely far from the nature that surrounds it. The family consists of two daughters, Eva and Nell (played by Evan Rachel Wood and Ellen Page) and their widowed father, all of whom seem to be living in a near future that all too much resembles the world that we already live in. Disconnected from the world and nature around and all too dependable on the technology that is micromanaging every aspect of our personal, social and professional lives – this is the future that has already happened, with futuristically designed technology being the only indicator of the film being set in a period that is yet to happen. Each of them seems to be  pursuing their own thing, chasing their own dreams and trying to make the bright future ahead of them (they are living a privileged middle-class life after all) a reality, with Eva trying to make it as a professional dancer and Nell focusing on her education, possibly wishing to pursue her studies in an academic sphere. They know exactly what they need to do, how hard they need to work for it and what reward is awaiting for them in the end. That is until the power suddenly goes out nationwide in what is at first interpreted as a terrorist attack – only that the loss of power does not end up being a simple inconvenience that would last for a few days. Days instead turn into weeks and weeks into months.

When their father loses his life in an unfortunate accident and it starts to become clearer that life with electricity is the thing of the past, girls find themselves completely alone and entirely dependable on themselves – instead of on the patriarchal order that the father (and later, briefly, Nell’s boyfriend) represented so far. However, they (understandably) find it hard to switch their mindset to the new reality in which everything that was once an important part of their everyday life suddenly does not exist anymore and the expression “fugue state” that Nell is learning for her upcoming SAT’s before the power outage, starts to get a life of its own since the girls seem to be unable to let their old, comfortable and privileged lives go. Nell keeps on studying for the exams as if she is still about to finish high school and pursue her education at one of the Universities that she applied to, and Eva practices her dance routine, accompanied by nothing else but the frustrating sound of a metronome, as if the upcoming audition and a professional dance career is still something that will somehow happen.

They’re clearly in denial and they seem determined to keep on living their life as they did before, no matter how much the reality around them has changed. And while they slowly adapt to certain changes, learn to gather food in the forest and chop wood, they somehow still cannot fully acknowledge the permanence of their situation – which, considering how very different persons they are, culminates in quite a few sisterly disputes. It’s not until Nell temporarily leaves, although merely to pick blueberries in the woods, while Eva (alone and unable to defend herself) gets brutally raped (in what is one of the most devastating and powerful scenes in the film) that the two realize just how very important it is for them to stick together and how, no matter how strong and independent they otherwise are, they are completely helpless without one another.

It is only after the rape and Eva’s realization that she got pregnant during it that the fugue state slowly starts to dissolve – but it’s not until she actually gives birth that they fully accept their new reality and find the strength to not only leave, but destroy the life that they once lived (at least what has left of it).

Of course we are all too familiar with dystopian stories that focus on how the end of the world would affect our society as a whole. And it is in this aspect that Into the Forest manages to be a refreshing variation of those all-too-frequent macro-societal dystopian futures. Rozema surprisingly barely mentions the crisis that is going on in the city nearby (and elsewhere throughout the country) – instead, it focuses entirely on these two girls, on two particular individuals trying their best to learn to survive after the world as they knew it suddenly stops existing. But while I admire her intention of analysing how such crisis affects people on a micro level, the characters at times do not feel developed enough for us to contently spend an hour and a half in their company. We hardly learn anything about Eva and Nell that would make us see them as real persons – for which I blame a somewhat clumsily written screenplay (adapted for screen by Rozema herself) that doesn’t manage to portray the sister’s dynamic as well as it could have, despite Wood and Page giving fantastic performances and managing to carry the film forward even when they do not have much to work with.

The Basics:
Directed by: Patricia Rozema
Written by: Patricia Rozema (based on a novel by Jean Hegland)
Starring: Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella, Callum Rennie
Running Time: 101 minutes
Year: 2015
Rating: 7

Top 10 Female Filmmakers

The Script Lab posted a list of Top 10 Female Directors just a few days ago. While I admire their intention of giving some much deserved attention to female filmmakers, they could at least try to make the list a little more diverse. After all – it’s called Top 10 Female Filmmakers, not American Female Filmmakers.

Because this was not the first time that I came across such a list (that really had, if I put it mildly, the most obvious choices of female filmmakers you could imagine) and because I’m kind of sick of how ignorant the Americans can be towards foreign films, literature and other forms of arts, I decided to make my own version of the list, that will, hopefully, show you a more diverse and interesting picture of great female filmmakers that you should keep an eye on.

  1. Agnès Varda (France): I think she doesn’t need any special introduction, since she’s one of the most iconic female filmmakers of all time. Watch any film of hers and you won’t be disappointed; however, if you don’t know where to begin, start with Le bonheur; it’s my favourite.
  2. Claire Denis (France): her absolutely brilliant filmography most often deals with themes of colonial and post-colonial West Africa (Chocolat, Beau travail, White Material) and with issues of modern day France.
  3. Chantal Akerman (Belgium): one of the most important feminist and avant-garde filmmakers of all time; her Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is considered the most important feminist film in the history of cinema.
  4. Vera Chytilová (Czechoslovakia): an avant-garde film director and a pioneer of Czech cinema. She is best known for her Czech New Wave film, Daisies, that is one of my favourite films of all time.
  5. Naomi Kawase (Japan): one of my favourite contemporary Japanese directors. Her films are an absolute must-see for anyone who appreciates Asian cinema.
  6. Jane Campion (New Zeland): she was the first female filmmaker in history to receive Palme d’Or for her universally acclaimed film The Piano (for which she also won an Oscar for Best Screenplay). Although she finished a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and painting first and started studying film when she was already in her late 20’s, she is without a doubt one of the best, most respected contemporary filmmakers, with the most interesting and diverse filmography one could imagine. And let’s not forget about her latest work, the brilliant miniseries Top of the Lake.
  7. Andrea Arnold (UK): Arnold first rose to fame with her feature debut Red Road, and later with her universally acclaimed film Fish Tank. Her latest film was visually breathtaking (and so far, my favourite) adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights that finally managed to portray Heathcliff (who is described as a “darkly-skinned gypsy” in the literary source, but has for some reason always been portrayed as a white man; Laurence Olivier in the 1939 version is just one such example) as an African man.
  8. Sofia Coppola (USA): one of the best known and critically acclaimed female filmmakers working today. I doubt she needs any further introduction, since you probably all know her films.
  9. Ava DuVernay (USA): a year ago, I had no idea who she was. Now, she’s one of my favourite contemporary American directors. I already wrote about her latest film, Selma, but I also recommend you all to see her 2012 Sundance winner Middle of Nowhere. She’s one of a few American filmmakers who does a thorough research, a whole sociological study of a theme she wants to portray in her film and even interviews certain people to get a sense of what their lives are before writing a screenplay – and for this fact alone she has my deepest respect. She’s amazing.
  10. Margarethe von Trotta (Germany): one of the most important female filmmakers of the New German Cinema and the world’s leading feminist filmmaker.

Honourable mentions:

  • Maya Deren (USA)
  • Samira Makhmalbaf (Iran)
  • Kelly Reichardt (USA)
  • Lynne Ramsay (Scotland)
  • Céline Sciamma (France)
  • Ursula Meier (Switzerland)
  • Catherine Breillat (France) – one of the most provocative female filmmakers, who’s mostly dealing with female sexuality and gender trouble. Her best work is (at least in my opinion) her 2001 film Fat Girl.
  • Cate Shortland (Australia)
  • Sarah Polley (Canada)
  • Mira Nair (India)
  • Gina Prince-Bythewood (USA) – one of the most successful contemporary African-American film-makers. Her best work so far is probably her latest film, Beyond the Lights.
  • Susanne Bier (Denmark) – I’m not a fan of her latest work, but her films After the Wedding and Open Hearts (a Dogme 95 film) are a must see for any cinephile.

Female filmmakers that only released one film so far (but will continue to make great films in the future, I’m sure):

Ana Lily Amirpour: her debut film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – also described as Iranian Vampire Spagetti Western – is one of the best films of 2015 I’ve seen so far. A truly fantastic cinematic experience.

Haifaa Al-Mansour: the first woman (or rather, a person, since not even a man filmed a movie there before) in Saudi Arabia that made a feature film! Go see Wadjda. Now.

Jennifer Kent: if you haven’t heard about this Australian film-maker and her debut horror film The Babadook yet, stop reading this post immediately and go watch the film! The best psychological thriller/horror from the last decade. And I don’t exaggerate one bit.

Rebecca Thomas: Electrick Children is a stunning feature film by Thomas about a 15-year old girl living in a fundamentalist Mormon community who believes that she got pregnant by listening to a cassette of a rock band.

Dee Rees: her debut film Pariah is a powerful drama about a 17-years old African-American teenager who is trying to embrace her identity as a lesbian while being bullied by her peers and her mother for not being feminine enough. One of film’s best feature is it’s beautiful cinematography by the one and only Bradford Young (one of my favourite currently working cinematographers).

Gillian Robespierre: Robespierre had her major breakthrough last year, when her feature indie film Obvious Child was released. The best rom-com I’ve seen in years that manages to tackle a sensitive subject of abortion with honesty and wit. But since I already wrote about the film, I recommend you to revisit my review.

Gia Coppola: Sofia Coppola’s niece and Francis Ford Coppola’s granddaughter, who released her feature debut Palo Alto in 2014.

Eliza Hittman: her debut It Felt Like Love is one of the most realistic portrayals of how it is to be a teenage girl. Beautifully shot, disturbing to watch, but overall a very rewarding film that will stay with you for quite some time.

Wadjda (2012)

Wadjda is the first film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, but even more importantly – it’s the first Saudi film made by a female director. And even though Haifaa al-Mansour had to be in a van for the larger part of film’s production when directing on the streets of Riyadh due to strict gender segregation and had to use walkie-talkies to communicate with the rest of the film crew, it is still an incredibly important achievement for a woman to be allowed to direct a film in this male dominated society.

Haifaa al-Mansour was born in Saudi Arabia, but hasn’t lived there since she left to attend the University – first to study comparative literature in Cairo and latter to attend film school in Sydney, Australia. It took her five years to find financial backing and getting permission to film Wadjda – a story supposedly inspired by her niece and her own childhood memories, although one could argue that the main theme of the film strongly resembles Iranian cinematic tradition, where stories about children are frequently used for subtle critiques of their society.

As we follow 11 years old Wadjda through her life we’re slowly introduced to a very straightforward criticism of the subordinate position of women in a country where everyday life is still very much dictated by religion. On many occasions we can see how much power the society has over the individuals – one of the stronger examples is probably the narrative shift when Wadjda’s dad (who is clearly very much in love with his first wife), submits to his parents wishes and marries another woman. Another similar event is when the (unmarried) school headmistress accuses her lover of breaking into her home and attacking her, so that she can avoid being publicly disgraced and discredited. And then there are those little details, that nonetheless tell us a great deal about Saudi society: how the schoolgirls must hide from the playground when construction men are working on a roof nearby and how Wadjda’s mother must have a driver because women are not allowed to drive a car. Any means of transport is actually prohibited for a woman to drive, including a bike, for they believe it causes infertility. But Wadjda doesn’t care about these rules – she’s determined to get a green bike from a local shop, even if it means that she must participate in a Quran recital competition to win a cash prize that would allow her to pay for the bike.

Even though the film includes women of many different generations, it is mainly focused on Wadjda who is still considered a child and doesn’t have a status of a woman yet. This is the only reason that she can get away with her rebelling against gender roles. She comes to the school without hijab, she wears black Converse shoes, walks around with cassette player in her backpack and listens to »Western« rock music – all of which infuriates the headmistress, who at one point even threatens her with expulsion. The character of headmistress is thus particularly interesting, because it is she, and not the men, who seems the most strict and fundamentalist in her religious beliefs – indicating that women are often not mere victims of the suffocating patriarchy, but can just as well perpetrate the system that is keeping them in the oppressed position.

As a young girl Wadjda can afford to be headstrong. But one can’t help but wonder what will happen to her in a couple of years when society starts to perceive her as a grown woman? The story also introduces us to her friendship with a boy named Abdullah who accepts her for who she is. But when he tells her that he means to marry her when they grow up it is hard not to wonder what will happen with their relationship when she’ll become his wife – will they still be equal, riding their bikes together or will he, as a man, gain power over her, a woman? Film doesn’t give any answers to the questions it raises, but it suggests (with the end scene, when Wadjda finally goes for a ride with her new bike – a scene that wonderfully resembles the ending of Truffaut’s French New Wave classic, The 400 Blows) that this is the time of a new generation that will quite possibly be able to overcome gender differences. Although we can also interpret it in a more pessimistic way, with her riding on a bike representing one of her last moments of freedom.

This is a wonderful coming-of-age story set in a country that we know almost nothing of. It is a great introduction to the Saudi culture (as well as to the Islamic culture in general) and thus a must-see film for all generations comfortably (and all too often ignorantly) living in their Eurocentric, Western bubble. In an age where fear of the unknown culture is yet again bringing up intolerance and hate all over Europe, films like this are the best kind of weapon to crush the stereotypes, to make us understand a different reality at least a bit better and to turn intolerance into something more positive: acceptance and permission to assimilate.

The Basics:
Directed by: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Written by: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Starring: Waad Mohammed, Abdullrahman Al Gohani, Reem Abdullah, Sultan Al Assaf, Ahd
Running Time: 98 minutes
Year: 2012
Rating: 8