To shoot a film on location in a country where cinemas themselves have been banned for over thirty years is an achievement for any director. When that filmmaker also happens to be a woman, in a country where it is illegal for women to drive or vote, makes Haifaa Al Mansour’s accomplishment with her debut feature WADJDA all the more impressive. Most remarkably of all, it’s a masterful film filled with humour, emotion and humanism.

Wadjda is a ten-year-old girl living in a suburb of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Although she lives in a conservative world, Wadjda is fun loving, entrepreneurial and rebellious. She’s determined to fight for her dreams, which include saving enough money to buy a bicycle, so she can race her friend Abdullah. Wadjda lives at home with her parents, who are loving if a little distracted. Her father isn’t around much and her mother is convinced he’s busy looking for a second wife. The story is tailored to highlight the pressures and difficulties faced by women in Saudi Arabia, with a rare glimpse into the lives of women behind closed doors and the warm relationships between mothers and daughters. WADJDA, like Iran’s A Separation, is a fascinating, honest, hugely satisfying film, both boundary-pushing in all the best ways and a thrilling cinematic achievement.

WADJDA will open in cinemas on March 20.