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.
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Charming and likable but also somewhat subversive in its quiet rebellion against social norms in modern Saudi Arabia. That this film was shot there by a Saudi woman is reason enough to celebrate. A wonderful tale not so far removed from Italian neorealism or the wonderful youth films shot by Kiarostami and Panahi in Iran in the eighties and nineties. Film may be light and frothy on the surface but dig deeper.
A rather sweet and frothy synopsis of a girl wanting a bike; but the outline hides a stinging social critique of Saudi culture's treatment of women (mirrored in the female director having to direct the exterior scenes from inside a van!). It's not about "The Bicycle Thieves", but those who don't want you to have a bike in the first place, and small, precious acts of rebellion.
Gentle and touching, Wadjda provides a delicate social critique on the hardships facing young women growing up in a rapidly changing Saudi Arabia. It's playful, entertaining, well shot and full of immediately likeable characters. Following a perfect 3-act structure, it's not ground-breaking cinema by any stretch, but it is fascinating to watch with it's twists ringing true emotionally. 3.5 stars.
There's somewhat social criticism lurking underneath it, but the same time without being judgemental or confrontative. It is worth watching just for the struggle to make this film alone. Maybe shocking to some of us who's not familiar with their culture.
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.