Wadjda

Out Now On-Demand

Wadjda, a young Saudi Arabian girl, challenges her country's conservative traditions by facing off against her neighbour in a bike race. With bike-riding frowned upon for Saudi girls (it is also illegal for women to vote or drive), her mother refuses to buy it for her, so Wadjda finds other ways of getting the money. This is the first feature to be directed both entirely in Saudi Arabia and by a Saudi woman (Haifaa Al Monsour), no small feat for a country that banned cinemas for over 30 years.

Trailers

Awards

Winner of 'CinemAvvenire', C.I.C.A.E. and Interfilm awards at Venice Film Festival 2012

Drama, World Cinema

98mins

Rating: PG

Arabic with English subtitles

Saudi Arabia

Official Site

Not many feature films have been made in Saudi Arabia. Even more remarkable in a patriarchal, totalitarian society is Wadjda, the first Saudi film to be scripted and directed by a woman, Haifaa Al-Mansour. It’s a simple tale, boldly shot and simply told. Young Wadjda dreams of getting a bicycle and racing her best friend, Abdullah. No big deal for us, but for a girl in Riyadh, riding a bike and associating with boys are immoral acts.

Seen through our eyes, the sought-after bike is a metaphor for freedom, in a fable of repressed female individuality. But Wadjda’s subversive brilliance is its clever tightrope trick, walking the thin line between critical analysis of the position of women and a moral tale of the dangers of female freedom.

Wadjda, played by spirited 12-year-old Waad Mohammed, sets about raising cash, selling mixtapes and friendship bracelets, and even faking interest in a cash-prize competition to recite the Qur’an. What we read as young Wadjda’s blossoming feminism could be argued, by fundamentalists, as her descent into immorality and deceit as means to purchase the soulless object of her desire.

Set against a backstory in which Wadjda’s father is seeking a second wife, so that he might have the son Wadjda’s mother so selfishly failed to give him, this is bold storytelling, cleverly circumventing censorship to secure its place in history as a watershed moment in Saudi cinema. That it’s also engaging, sweet, humorous and moving is no mean feat.

Variety (USA)

press

Al Mansour captures the isolation of Saudi women and their parallel lives of freedom at home and invisibility outside.

Dissolve (USA)

press

An object of stark beauty, an oasis of free-spirited cinema emerging from the desert.

Time Out New York

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There’s lots of crowd-pleasing triumph at the end of Wadjda’s gauntlet.

Total Film (UK)

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Al-Mansour carefully dodges easy uplift, but her message of hope to future generations of Saudi women is clear.

Guardian (UK)

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You'd need a heart of stone not to be won over by Wadjda

Empire (UK)

press

As simple and charming as you could wish for.

New York Times

press

Finds room to maneuver between harsh realism and a more hopeful kind of storytelling. There is warmth as well as austerity.

false

Loved this film. Cried a lot. Very emotional, inspiring and wonderfully directed.


I want to ride my bicycle

The plot is: child wants a toy, what lengths will she go to, to get it. Which might be boring except that Wadjda is charming, inventive and stubborn; and the child in us wants her to succeed in getting a bike of her own, so she can race the boy next door. Actually everyone in this film wants something, as gradually becomes clear as we over hear Wadjda's mother's phone conversations and learn what is going on in the adult world. The small cast, the phone conversations and limit set of locations gives a sense of the claustrophobia of life for women and girls in Saudi society. But you don't come out of this film wanting to write an angry letter to the Saudi embassy, rather you think that though the rules of life may be very different, people (especially kids) are just the same.