3. Wadjda
To be frank, I sought out Wadjda at the Tribeca Film Festival because I was intrigued by the story of its making. Not only is it the first feature film ever shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, it is also the first feature-length movie helmed by a Saudi woman. And writer-director Haifaa al-Mansour had additional obstacles (besides financing, a lack of film infrastructure, the difficulties in securing locations in the nation) in that cultural mores prohibited her with speaking directly to her (male) crew. She often had to watch takes through a monitor in the back of a van, and direct via walkie-talkie. Fascinating, right? Well, the movie is even better, and a fitting reflection of overcoming gender inequality.

Named for its heroine, Wadjda tells a deceptively simple story of a young girl who is saving up money to buy a bicycle. Girls don't ride bikes in Saudi Arabia, but Wadjda has little to no interest or patience for what is expected of her. She wears purple sneakers, makes contraband friendship bracelets, and winsomely urges her father, who tirelessly demands a son from his wife, to see her value. Considering the odds against her, I expected this would be a grim film about the overwhelming oppression women in Saudi Arabia face. Instead--like Short Term 12--al-Monsour chose to focus on the little successes her spirited heroine experiences, not the obstacles that can at times seems smothering. In this way, this movie fronted by an affable little girl named Waad Mohammed is poignant, thought-provoking and fantastically uplifting.

Best Moment:Wadjda goes to lay claim to her bike, and while she can't offer a down payment, she offers the shop owner a mixed tape. She tells him directly, this makes them friends, and that means he won't dare sell her bike to anyone else. This girl's got some serious moxie.

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