Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Key Actors: Waad Mohammad, Reem Abdullah, Ahd
MPAA Rating: PG
Synopsis: Wadjda is a young girl in Saudi Arabia. She is a trouble-maker who decides she wants to buy a bike–something girls aren’t supposed to do in Saudi Arabia. In order to earn the money for her bike, she enters a Koran memorization contest.
Overall Rating: 4 Stars
Wadjda is one of the best movies I have seen of late, whether in the theatre or at home. Wadjda the character is someone probably many of us can relate to: who hasn’t wanted to do something that everyone else says we shouldn’t? However, because this is a Saudi Arabian film about a Saudi Arabian girl living in Saudi Arabian, it is also completely otherworldly for my Western mentality. It makes you ask questions. “Is this an accurate reflection of daily life for Saudi women?” “Are girls really supposed to only touch the Koran with a tissue if they’re on their periods?” “Where’s a good ethnography about Saudi Arabian culture?” (That last one might just be me.)
There are many moments, when watching this film, where someone used to a Western culture cringes. Even with my cultural relativism in place, it is still hard to watch a husband leave his wife because she cannot bear anymore children.
Bechdel: Once again, a movie written and directed by a woman passes the Bechdel Test perfectly. And some. I’m beginning to notice a trend…
Wadjda and her mother talk about many, many things. Bikes, food, music, party dresses, transportation. And there was that fascinating (to me) moment when Wadjda told her mother that her school now wanted her to wear the full head attire to school. It was a sign that Wadjda is growing into a woman. Their relationship–like many mother/daughter relationships–was very up and down. But ultimately, they love each other and talk about everything.
Wadjda also converses with her school principal frequently. Usually Wadjda is being reprimanded. But on occasion they speak because Wadjda is progressing so well in her Koran memorization.
Wadjda is a tremendous film. I absolutely love it and want to buy it today but it is not yet on DVD. It is an amazing film just in its own right, but it is interesting to note that even in light of recent protests about the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia submitted it for Foreign Language Academy Award. What good, good news.
And just for a little bit more information, here is an article about the film and director.