Hailed as the first film shot in contemporary Saudi Arabia (from the first female Saudi filmmaker), Wadjda tells the story of a young girl in a conservative town who dreams of having a bicycle, which is forbidden for girls.
The first feature film made entirely in Saudi Arabia (with help from Germany), a country where movie theaters are banned for being un-Islamic. And it is also the first Saudi film to be directed by a woman, in a country where women have less rights than male children and are often married off once they hit puberty. Wadjda follows its titular character, who is a rebellious young girl dreaming of buying a bicycle in order to race her friend Abdullah. But in such a conservative society, the idea of a woman riding a bicycle horrifies everyone around her, but she is determined to show them up, and when the school religious club announces a Koran reciting competition with a huge cash reward, Wadjda sees it as the chance to get what is hers. First, the film is fascinating in that it lays bare the absurd contradictions of living in a repressive theocracy. The religious police and government authorities are mentioned, but never shown. In fact, the people keep one another in line via their own warped senses of morality. And yet, despite living in such a conservative society, the people are obsessed with western-style capitalism, they play first person shooters, and the women definitely do not dress in a modest manner when behind closed doors. Wadjda and Abdullah are really the only ones who openly realize how ridiculous it all is, whereas their elders have resigned to a kind of quiet defeat. Her mother has to commute three hours to work everyday, and breaks her back trying to please her husband who is off looking for other girls to marry. But there is also a great deal of comedy and pathos here, and moments of joy. Sure, it falls prey to a lot of the usual problems these slice-of-life stories do, but the acting and sense of place evoked make up for that. This is more of an important movie than a great one, but all things considered it was highly enjoyable.
Significant not only for being the very first film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, it's also the first Saudi film to be directed by a woman. It's a simple tale of a resourceful young girl who will do anything to buy a bicycle, despite her patriarchal society's repressive rules against women. A charming, likable film that is subtly subversive, gently pushing back against its country's strict Islamic law.
i remember watching this film’s trailer and having this great urge to watch it (it’s a damn good trailer). many of you would be sick of the buzz this film is getting, but this is for everyone else… read review