Screened at the 2012 Telluride Film Festival.

Wadjda is the first feature film to ever be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and also the first film to be directed by a Saudi Arabian woman. (The director, Haifa Al-Mansour, reportedly had to direct some of the scenes by telephone due to the country’s restriction on women interacting with men in public.) The film is tasteful, worthy arthouse fare, sort of like The Girl with a Bike sans the Dardennes’ tough-mindedness, piling (no doubt accurately) oppression after oppression on its spunky young protagonist while remaining neutral enough not to piss off Saudi censors.  But Al-Mansour does have an eye for cruel irony – Wadjda enters a Koran recitation contest in the hope of earning enough money to buy a bicycle, memorizing the instrument of her oppression to buy something it forbids to her – and the subtler B-story, involving the mother’s despair over her husband’s decision to take a second wife, packs a serious emotional punch. Wadjda may break more political than cinematic ground, but putting a human face on the outraged news reports about women’s rights in Saudi Arabia is nothing to sneeze at.

Eugene Novikov

Released: 2012
Genres: Drama
Starring: Sultan Al Assaf, Abdullrahman Algohani, Ahd Kamel, Reem Abdullah, Waad Mohammed
Directed by: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Screenwriters: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Rated: UR


Seeking in movies meaning and reflection in real-time. On the look out for biography, thriller & drama best pieces.

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