Autumn 2013 Features series
Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 4:00pm
Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 7:00pm
Directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour
Screenplay by Haifaa Al-Mansour
Starring Reem Abdullah, Waad Mohammed, and Abdullrahman Al Gohani
Rated NR ·
Saudi Arabia / Germany
Wadjda is a movie of firsts. It is the first film ever shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and, even more impressive, the first feature film made by a female Saudi filmmaker. In a country where cinemas are banned and women cannot drive or vote, writer-director Haifaa Al Mansour has broken many barriers with her new film, which tells the story of a girl determined to fight for her dreams.
Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) is a 10-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 always pushing the boundaries of what she can get away with. After a fight with her friend Abdullah (Abdulrahman Al Gohani), a neighborhood boy she should not be playing with, Wadjda sees a beautiful green bicycle for sale. She wants the bicycle desperately so that she can beat Abdullah in a race. But Wadjda’s mother (Reem Abdullah) will not allow it, fearing repercussions from a society that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl’s virtue. So Wadjda decides to try and raise the money herself.
At first, Wadjda’s mother is too preoccupied with convincing her husband not to take a second wife to realize what is going on. But soon enough Wadjda’s plans are thwarted when she is caught running various schemes at school. Just as she is losing hope of raising enough money, she hears of a cash prize for a Koran recitation competition at her school. She devotes herself to the memorization and recitation of Koranic verses, and her teachers begin to see Wadjda as a model pious girl. The competition is not going to be easy, especially for a troublemaker like Wadjda, but she refuses to give in.
“A bittersweet film about a 10-year-old girl finding her feet in Riyadh society that cannot fail to win you over.” (Xan Brooks, The Guardian)
“Both mother and daughter are at odds with cultural traditions, and yet the film does not feel polemical, still less satirical. What it does offer is a useful and thus-far unique insight into the workings of a society of which we in the West know little, presented in a hugely appealing, accessible way.” (Brian Viner, Daily Mail)