20 July 2013 4:05 PM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

One of the first features shot in Saudi Arabia, and certainly the first to be written and directed by a woman, this beguiling German-Saudi co-production turns upon an image that has been a cinematic metaphor for freedom, self-empowerment and lyrical liberation from Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou through Ford's The Quiet Man to Truffaut's Jules et Jim – a man or woman on a bicycle. The eponymous 10-year-old Wadjda (affectingly played by 12-year-old Waad Mohammed) is a spirited, lower-middle-class schoolgirl in Riyadh, troubled by the impending separation of her parents, who longs to own a bike to race against her friend Abdullah. The implication is that she's rapidly approaching the age of not being able to cycle, meet a boy or go out of the house unveiled.

The story is an admirable necklace on which to string facts, anecdotes and insights that illuminate in a good-natured way the lives of women in an unthinking, »

- Philip French

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Wadjda (2012)
Jules and Jim (1962)
Un Chien Andalou (1929)


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