Wadjda (2012)

Just in case you didn't notice, Thursday is that day of the week I review foreign language movies, and since it's still Girl Week around here, I went with Wadjda, a Saudi Arabian drama directed by a woman. 

One day, after losing a race against her friend Abdullah (Abdullrahman Al Gohani), a boy she shouldn't be playing with, 10-year-old Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) sees a beautiful green bicycle. She wants it desperately so that she can beat Abdullah but her mother (Reem Abdullah) won't allow it because bicycles aren't toys for girls. So she tries to raise the money herself and when her attempt fails, she signs on for her school's Koran recitation competition to win the large cash prize for first place.

It looks like a simple coming-of-age and at some points like your average underdog tale, but the story is much more than that. It's complex, deeply touching, warm, interesting and engaging. And at some point, it will even put a smile on your face.

That's because Wadjda doesn't only depict the efforts of a young girl to break free from her conservative world/nation, but it shows the condition of women in Saudi Arabia. The film shows how adult women struggle to survive, how hard it is to be "independent" without a man. Actually, that's the point, showing that these women can't be independent. They are restricted from driving, going out unveiled, talking to men in public. Their voices shouldn't even be heard by man, and if they are out and they see a man, they are supposed to go inside because if they saw him, he can see them. It also shows the emotional struggle of Wadjda's mother troubled by the possibility that her husband may take a second wife because she is able to give him a son.

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In spite of these issues addressed, the film never gets heavy. Director Haifaa Al-Mansour is able to keep a light tone from start to finish. She did a truly astonishing job showing the Arabic reality is this small story of hers. Her direction is even more impressive, especially given the circumstances (she had to stay in a van and direct by walkie-walkie for some scenes and she couldn't interact with the actors and male crew members).

Wadjda can also claim a strong performance from its lead, the young Waad Mohammed. She is such a sweetheart, and she is so charming and carries the film on her shoulders. And it makes it look so easy!


  1. Oh man, I meant to watch this back when it came out. I didn't and forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Omg this is the review I have scheduled for tomorrow. Lol. We both liked it!

  3. This sounds like an excellent film and one I have never heard of which is not surprising. It sounds uplifting even though I find my anger rising with what these women must go through. I would be tempted to walk there in n the getup, and when a man walks past open up my black get up and shimmy in a sequinned bathing suit. Not only would it slam their disgusting laws against women but I would scare the men because I would be showing my flabby self.

    1. It makes me angry too. I can't believe there are still places like Saudi Arabia in 2017.