WADJDA is a 10-year-old girl living in a suburb of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Although she lives in a conservative world, Wadjda is fun loving, entrepreneurial and always pushing the boundaries of what she can get away with. After a fight with her friend Abdullah, a neighborhood boy she shouldn't be playing with, Wadjda sees a beautiful green bicycle for sale. She wants the bicycle desperately so that she can beat Abdullah in a race. But Wadjda's mother won't allow it, fearing repercussions from a society that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl's virtue. So Wadjda decides to try and raise the money herself. At first, Wadjda's mother is too preoccupied with convincing her husband not to take a second wife to realize what's going on. And soon enough Wadjda's plans are thwarted when she is caught running various schemes at school. Just as she is losing hope of raising enough money, she hears of a cash prize for a Koran recitation competition at her school. She devotes herself... Written by
Razor Film Produktion GmbH
The director Haifaa Al-Mansour tells the tale of a child called Wadjda whose wish is to have her own bicycle so that she might race against her friend and neighbour Abeer. The only problem is that Wadjda is a girl and girls in Saudi society do not ride bikes, which are considered "boys' toys" ... As we follow Wadjda in her quest to find the money to purchase the bicycle she sees being delivered on the roof of a van, we are introduced to her society and its culture and, in particular, its treatment of girls and women. Al-Mansour's portrayal of her country is shown without heavy judgement, although the bitter sweetness of being female is not concealed.
Filmed on location in Saudi Arabia, a feat in itself in a country that does not have a film industry as films are considered sinful, Wadjda's desire represents the wish for female freedom; her lack of a bicycle is mirrored in the adult women's inability to drive, prohibited for women in Saudi Arabia, and the problems this creates for them. So the child's desire to ride a bike becomes a metaphor for freedom, which is the central theme in the film.
This is a subtle tale full of character, charm and complexities and not at all as one might expect. The young girl who carries the film, Waad Mohammed, is terrific and it is hard to believe that she was not an actress before appearing in this feature.
Does Wadjda achieve her desire and get her bike? Is she able to race it along the dusty roads as free as her friend Abeer and the other boys? Well, you will have to watch the film for the answers and in watching the film will support the director and the nascent film industry emerging from within Saudi Arabia.
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