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Of all Haifaa Al Mansour’s accomplishments in her debut film – not the least of which is being the first woman to direct a feature in Saudi Arabia – her success at re-creating a child’s point of view is especially impressive. Not many filmmakers can do it convincingly, and her knack recalls the early films of the Iranian directors Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi.
But unlike those filmmakers’ guileless innocents, Al Mansour’s 10-year-old Wadjda takes charge of her destiny, challenging the rules of one of the most restrictive countries in the world. More than a critique of Saudi society, “Wadjda” offers a character with universal resonance and appeal.