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Reviews for Wadjda ( 2012 )

A firecracker (IMDB: 10)

On: 7/29/2014 12:00:00 AM By: proterozoic
Wadjda is 10. She wants to buy herself a bicycle so she can win a grudge race against a neighborhood boy, but has to find a way to hustle the money while going to a Saudi religious school that takes a dim view of fun and games. "There's your problem right there," as they say on the Internet.

A movie is truly exciting when it shows you something you've never seen before. You'd think this would most often be sci-fi, but it isn't, because they use the same grey metal corridor all the time, in everything. "Wadjda" is, because it reveals a world that almost nobody gets to see even if they want to - and a very large number of Americans won't look at even if you show it to them, because they're scared of catching "stealth jihad."

This is hilarious, because the hard cases who run Saudi Arabia - like Wadjda's head-mistress - ban bracelets, magazines and tapes of love songs for fear that any exposure to those things will infect their students with whorish Western culture. Either one side overestimates the power of the other's influence, or both do, or perhaps the two sides would flip and trade places, with Riyadh turning into Miami on spring break and Burning Man banning women from pedaling their own concept tricycles.

The latter probably won't happen, so if you're not afraid of Islam cooties, watch this movie and you will find an extraordinary treat for the curious. It shows Saudi women in their domestic lives, before and after they put on the "space suit" to head out. It shows how the gender-based class system works in general, while drawing characters who began to feel like my relatives after half an hour. Wadjda was my kick-ass little niece, and her mom was my sister-in-law, and I wished there was a way for me to call them up and say something encouraging. I wished there was a way to send them stuff - I'd give Wadjda an iPod full of Pink Floyd and death metal, and I would give her mom the robot taxi from Total Recall, the one that looks like there's a man driving it.

This movie passes the Bechdel test summa cum laude, as one might expect; its sensitivity and realism means that technically (since this is the first movie ever to be shot entirely in that country), the Saudi Arabian film industry now has a better average track record with female characters than Hollywood does. The relationship between Wadjda and her mom involves some yelling, but is sweet and wonderful through and through.

The movie never criticizes the social regime of its country, but it doesn't have to - even played completely straight, it looks horrendous. This is the most sexist society on earth, and Wadjda's school is like an alien experiment run by creatures that hate joy in all forms.

"Wadjda" itself, however, is pure joy. It works on every level - as drama, slice of life, children's movie, movie about children & an insider look at Saudi Arabia. It's an awesome movie.

Deeply moving (IMDB: 9)

On: 3/6/2014 12:00:00 AM By: zetes
A fantastic little film directed by a woman in Saudi Arabia. That's astounding considering that women are pretty much not allowed to do anything there. Al-Mansour had to direct her cast from inside a van, because she couldn't direct the male crew out in the open. It's also astounding because Saudi Arabia has almost zero history in the art of cinema. It's shocking how well made this film is. Of course, the subject is the existence of women in the country. Waad Mohammed stars as 12 year old Wadjda, a wily young girl who does not like her lot in life. In particular, she wants to ride a bicycle, which is a huge taboo in Saudi Arabia (they're afraid it might break her hymen). Her mother (Reem Abdullah) is going through her own problems. After she had Wadjda, she can no longer have children, and her husband is trying to land a second wife so he can produce a male heir. Wadjda's attitude gets her in plenty of trouble at school, with headmistress Ahd (that's the actress' name, just Ahd) disapproving of every little thing she does. It sounds like the film is as oppressive as Saudi Arabian society, but it's actually quite joyous. Mohammed is so insanely lovable. I was hugely touched by the film.

Very interesting look at life in Saudi Arabia (IMDB: 7)

On: 1/5/2014 12:00:00 AM By: Andy-296
Wadjda is the first film made in Saudi Arabia, a country where cinema theaters are banned. And is directed by a woman (Haifaa al Mansour), no less, and has a quasi feminist theme as well. The simple plot centers around Wadjda (played by Waad Mohammed), a rowdy girl, about 11 years old, living in Riyad who dreams of owning a bicycle (in Saudi Arabia, the movie tells us, girls riding bicycles are frowned upon). In order to buy a bicycle, she enters a contest in her girls-only school for recitation of the Koran with a cash prize, despite the misgivings of the harsh, stern headmistress (played by an actress called simply Ahd, in perhaps the best performance of the film).

The movie reminds me of some Iranian films of the past that also are centered on children (for example, Abbas Kiarostami's early films or Majid Majidi "Pedar" and "Children of Heaven"). I suppose directors from conservative countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia chose movies centered on children's since films dealing with adult themes would surely hit censorship issues. Perhaps the movie has more social interest than cinematic interest (though it is well filmed). It is fascinating to see the contrast between the relatively affluent society (Wadja's house has all the latest gadgets) and the very conservative traditions of the country (at one point, for example, the mother of Wadjda is afraid that her husband will take a second wife, as it is allowed there). Or we see one of the girls in the school, of Wadjda's age, showing the photos of her marriage to an older man. And once when Wadjda falls from a bicycle and draws blood, her mother is at first afraid her hymen has broken – virginity in women is extremely valued in Saudi Arabia. A very interesting movie to watch, especially since life in Saudi Arabia is very seldom shown in movies.

An Optimistic Tale of Triumph Over Adversity (IMDB: 8)

On: 12/11/2013 12:00:00 AM By: l_rawjalaurence
WADJDA is a straightforward tale of a young girl Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) growing up in a suburb of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, who wants to buy a bicycle. Unable to find the money to do so, she enters a competition to speak the Koran in public with a substantial cash prize. After considerable time spent studying the text, she wins the competition, but sadly doesn't receive the money. In the end, however, she achieves her dreams - but not in the way she expects. Haifaa Al-Mansour's film is noteworthy for being a woman's film directed by a woman; it shows in careful detail the ways in which women's lives are constructed in Saudi Arabia, as well as showing how influential the Koran is in determining people's behavior. Some viewers might think that the women's lives are unfairly restricted; the film suggests that this is what many women believe is the right thing to do. By doing so, WADJDA shows how different people embraces different concepts of Islam. On the other hand, the film also suggests that individuals - especially children - should have at least some means to express themselves, particularly when they have worked to hard to achieve their aims. To restrict them is also to repress them; and this ultimately leads them to accept subordination as a way of life. WADJDA proves that the opposite should be true; not only for Wadjda herself but also for her mother (Reem Abdullah).

Wadjda is an opportunity for a female Saudi director to get her voice heard (IMDB: 7)

On: 11/26/2013 12:00:00 AM By: estebangonzalez10
¨You won't be able to have children if you ride a bike.¨

Wadjda is a beautiful yet simple film about a young girl who is willing to break society's boundaries and traditions in order to achieve her goal. In a sense it plays out as a metaphor considering Wadjda is the first feature film from Saudi Arabia which happens to be directed by a female. In a culture where women aren't allowed to speak up to men or even to drive a vehicle, Haifaa Al-Mansour has found a way to share her voice with the world through cinema. That is groundbreaking on its own considering that Saudi Arabia doesn't even have a film industry and that women are very much tied up to the limitations that their society puts on them. Al- Mansour, who also wrote the screenplay, gets her message across in a simple manner without trying to be judgmental or harsh on her culture. It is through the eyes of this 10 year old girl that we see how difficult the culture is on women. Not being allowed to ride a bike for fear that she could lose her virtue and purity plays out as a metaphor as to the limitations females face in these countries. I'm pretty sure that we all agree with Al-Mansour's viewpoints here in the west, but it is a shame that this film won't be seen by the people who really should see this film, the Saudis. It may be a familiar tale to us (it has all the known elements of a classic underdog story), but it works thanks to a wonderful performance from the young Waad Mohammed who plays a character we all can identify and relate to. Wadjda is worth seeing for the historical significance it has for females in Islamic countries who are trying to get their voice heard.

Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) is a ten year old girl from Saudi Arabia who lives with her mother (Reem Abdullah) in Riyadh. She's from a very conservative society where women have to cover their hair around men, but she is a very lovable girl who's always pushing the boundaries to her limitations. When one of the boys (Abdullrahman Al Gohani) begins teasing her and outruns her on his bike, she promises that she will buy one to race him and beat him. She sees a beautiful green bike on sale and since her mother doesn't give her the money because she considers girls shouldn't ride bikes, Wadjda decides to raise the money herself. The perfect opportunity presents itself when director Ms. Hussa (Ahd) offers prize money for the winner of a Koran recitation competition at her school. Wadjda begins to dedicate her time and efforts to this competition, while her mother is worried about trying to convince her husband (Sultan Al Assaf) to stay with her and not get remarried. Wadjda is dedicated to achieving her goal despite the limitations presented by the people around her.

The young and talented Waad Mohammed stands out in this film with a heartfelt and lovable performance. It is a simple tale and one we've seen many times in the past with the exception that this film is told by someone who has been facing those very same limitations. Some universal themes about the human spirit and the power of the will are portrayed nicely in this film through the eyes and smile of Waad Mohammaed. Director, Al-Mansour, also gives us glimpses of the limitations women have to face through very small scenes and moments. There is a scene where Wadjda's mother is shopping for a dress and she tries on a beautiful red one and you can't help but wonder what a waste it is considering she can only wear it at home for her husband. She covers herself completely when there is a man around. She also spends so much time fixing her hair, only to cover it until her husband who sometimes doesn't show up in days can appreciate it. Al-Mansour presents these scenes without being judgmental, but they come through very well. Wadjda, like us, doesn't seem to understand all this and won't conform to those boundaries, which is the director's way of sharing her hope for a brighter future for these women. Maybe if there were more determined girls like Wadjda they could break through some of those boundaries and limitations and have some more freedom. The film is full of hope like the main character and it is one worth seeing.

A powerful indictment of gender inequality (IMDB: 7)

On: 10/26/2013 12:00:00 AM By: howard.schumann
Despite Saudi Arabian officials refusal to budge on the rules concerning male-only driving and threatening the arrest of women activists who are planning a protest, repressive laws and customs directed at Saudi women are changing slowly. Women may now ride bicycles, can sit on the national advisory council, and a decision has been made by King Abdullah permitting women to vote and run in municipal elections in 2015. Regardless, it still takes a great deal of courage in Saudi Arabia to stand up to centuries of repressive traditions and assert your full rights as a human being.

Wadjda, funded by European companies and backed by the Sundance Institute, is the first film to be directed by a Saudi woman, Haifaa Al-Mansour, and the first to be shot inside Saudi Arabia. In addition to being genuine and heartwarming, the film is a powerful indictment of the gender inequality that Saudi women face in their lives. For a ten-year-old child with intelligence and an independent streak to be compelled to follow strict religious laws while attending school is quite a challenge. In a sparkling performance by Waad Mohammed, Wadjda is a rebel from the outset. She wears sneakers and shoelace bracelets to school, sells friendship bracelets to her classmates, listens to Western pop music on the radio, and wears baseball boots, much to the chagrin of Ms. Hussa (Ahd), the school's overbearing principal.

She constantly admonishes Wadjda for not complying with restrictions such as completely covering your face and not being seen in the company of men unless they are a part of your family. Fortunately, Wadjda has a great relationship with her mother (Reem Abdullah) and they treat each other with humor and mutual respect, yet there is tension, mainly created by her father (Sultan Al Assaf) who is in and out of the home, looking for a second wife who can bear him a son. The girl has become friends with Abdullah (Abdullrahman Al Gohani), the next door neighbor of about the same age, who rides a bike and playfully challenges her to beat him in a race.

Their relationship is very sweet and very natural without straining for cuteness and their smiles are enough to put even the grimmest viewer in a good mood. Wadjda is also full of surprises. When she expresses a wish to compete in the annual Koran contest, her authoritarian teacher who is ready to expel students for all kinds of harmless interactions is taken aback. Of course, Wadjda's reason for entering the contest is to win enough money to purchase the green bike she has her eyes on and which the local store owner is holding for her.

Though girls riding bikes are frowned upon because of the absurd claim that it will keep them from having children, to Wadjda, it is a symbol of her independence from social and religious strictures. Her quest to save money to buy the bike using every street smart she can think of shows the strength and quiet determination of her character. Though there are many outstanding performances including Reem Abdullah as Wadjda's reassuring and sympathetic mother, Waad Mohammed's dramatization of the plucky ten-year-old with the broad smile helps make Wadjda one of the best films of the year. Unfortunately, since there are no cinemas in Saudi Arabia, it is doubtful whether Saudi's will ever be able to see it.

Big Start for Saudi Arabia (IMDB: 7)

On: 10/22/2013 12:00:00 AM By: nikashvili
Wadjda is a school girl who has a dream of driving a bike, which is mostly considered to be a "boys' thing" in her community. That's why she is the only one standing for her dream, without even a little support of family. To collect 800 riyals (price of bike), she decides to compete in Quran competition to win 1000 riyals. Starting from zero and despite all complications, she beats every school girl.

This movie is about many many things. But mostly how big a dream can come and how those inhuman traditions shape persons, narrow their minds and how some of them still are sparkle of light in "darkness". Plot mostly concentrates on Wadjda, but it still exposes bad habits and traditions of Arabian society - problems in family, outside family and at schools. But those supporting stories are quietly playing behind this little girl's strive for dreams.

Wadjda is a quiet type movie. It does not have big emotional culminations or some plot twists. It goes very slowly from the beginning to the end as pale as landscapes of Saudi Arabia. However it's still good movie to watch - its simplicity, clarity and sincerity makes quite enjoyable film experience. Unlike most movies produced in Islam countries, Wadjda does not bring any criticism of religion or traditions or anything else. It just tells a story leaving everything open to judgement.

For the record, director Haifaa Al-Mansour is a first female director in Saudi Arabian and is considered one of the most prolific movie makers in the Kingdom. She truly did a great job illustrating Arabic reality in a very small and personal story of young girl. Haifaa also wrote story herself. Screenplay is quite good, without any major plot holes or fails.

Oscar chances? Pretty good for many reasons. First of all, it's a good cinematic piece. Secondly, it's directed by a woman from Islamic country. Third, it's is first submission by Saudi Arabia. Fourth, it is quite charming and easy to understand story, which can reach to very bottom of every hart. And finally, it gets quite successful PR company by producers and director herself. So, shortlisting is a guarantee, nomination - highest probability, win - I'd not consider this seriously.

A much needed perspective on roles of women in Islamic countries (IMDB: 9)

On: 10/19/2013 12:00:00 AM By: Khabibul35-1
The Middle East is such a hot topic, but so little of the conversation is generated by natives that it's almost impossible to have any sort of dialog. On the one hand, we get the western phobia of Islam which includes hateful stories on the people/governments of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan. On the other hand, we get the defensive responses of the governments/peoples of those countries who hate to have their countries painted in such broad strokes. This is exactly why a movie like this is so important! For once, we're presented with a perspective that looks at the issues with introspection. It might not the perfect description of life in Saudi for a woman, but it's a start and it brings up important points.

I'll start with the fact that the cinematography and acting are excellent. Those who might expect a B-movie production from a Saudi filmmaker making her first movie will be more than pleasantly surprised. The script is well written, the actors play their roles fantastically and the movie is well edited.

As far as plot, the movie is seemingly about a girl whose goal is to acquire a bike and the obstacles she needs to overcome to do so. On the surface, this might seem like a really simplistic plot but the way the story is told makes in much different than the normal protagonist overcomes difficulty story. And in fact, as it soon becomes apparent, the story isn't even really about the bike at all, but a chance to give context to the lives of women.

And thought I might have already raved about the technical aspects and how the story is told, in reality the #1 reason you should see this movies is because of the questions it raises. In the movie, we are confronted with important issues about the role of women is Saudi society and the different nuances of life. There is just the right balance of things that are told to us directly and what we must infer. To westerners, it might be one the first times we get this perspective. To Saudis and proponents of Islamic law, it's a chance to begin a discussion about the role of women in Saudi society. Regardless of where you stand, this movie is an opportunity to start the education process and the discussion on the topics at hand.

Saudi Movie= I'm instantly curious (IMDB: 8)

On: 9/21/2013 12:00:00 AM By: motezart
The total lack of films that come out of Saudi Arabia made Wadjda, a Saudi film by Haiffa Al- Mansour, instantly alluring. Haiffa Al-Mansour is already accredited as being the first successful woman filmmaker in Saudi Arabia's history.

This is very much Al- Mansour's film. She charms the viewer with the common everyday struggles of the Saudi woman, and rather than address the issues in a combative way, her approach is warm, even cute. This draws us in to her characters and provides us with some heartfelt laughs along the way.

The precocious 10-year Wadjda is growing up in Riyadh where she wants nothing more than a shiny new bicycle, but not only is she a little short on riyals, in Saudi Arabia women do not to ride bicycles. Saudi moral code bans woman from driving, going out in public unveiled, living unaccompanied, leaving the country alone, and opposing their husbands' orders in any way.

Small details make grand impressions: In an all girls school teenage students paint their toenails, a sin, and are publicly vilified for it. The mere possibly that workmen half a mile away might see school girls playing in their courtyard forces all the girls to rush inside, lest they be judged impure. Pubescent girls are considered impure and must use a tissue just flip the pages of Koran.

Wadjad's truly beautiful mother spends much of her time perfecting her appearance only then to have to then cover herself with a full hijab. She is never openly defiant; defiance is impossible, but even thought she is obeying age old traditions that we'd assume would have dulled any emotional protest, through the mother's submission we get a brief glimpse of her distress, the natural human emotional distress that no amount of "aged tradition" or religious subjugation has the right to inflict on any human being.

In a country where cinemas are banned, Riyadh is not exactly a city where women can just go around shooting films. Females mixing with male co-workers would bring dire consequences. Al-Mansour shot the film anyway, directing much of it from the back of a van, and the result is a film representing the triumph of the defiant feminine spirit, in all forms.

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Powerful movie (IMDB: 10)

On: 9/12/2013 12:00:00 AM By: Karina2013
Its not often i find foreign movies that touch me deeply. I loved this movie and was surprised how well this movie was made. Waad Mohammed played her part extraordinary where she took us viewers on her journey. I both laughed, cried, got angry and got happy when i saw this movie. I am so happy the movie ended the way it did, i don't want to give away any spoilers here but during the whole movie i was scared something would happen hehehe. Thankfully it ended as it ended. This movie also show a sense of determination. Doesn't matter what country you are from or the age, we all have a dream. And how far a determination, patience and hope can take you. I love the fact we saw a raw view of Saudi and i truly enjoyed watching this movie. Well done for the incredible director for by Haifaa Al-Mansour! Such a joy to have seen this movie

How to watch a Saudi film directed by a Saudi Female in Saudi Arabia (IMDB: 7)

On: 6/28/2013 12:00:00 AM By: r-chloes
Being a Saudi girl myself I didn't know what to expect, but honestly it was quiet good. The way they portrayed how it goes behind the closed doors of girls schools was so real, like I saw my whole life flashing in front of me: You have to cover your face, you have to wear fully covered Abaya... etc, etc.

Funny thing that most of you know by now that we don't have public theaters here, so I was lucky to hear about the screening in the U.S embassy with the presence of the director Haifa AlMansour. it was a once in a lifetime experience: I watched a Saudi movie directed by Saudi female director with a Saudi audience in Home but not quiet home. That kind of thing only happens in this side of the world.

I really believe that the story portrayed everything well and fair, there were a lot of good laughs.

Good job Haifa: I was lucky enough to tell her that be person. Now Go and make the rest of us proud.

How to survive (IMDB: 7)

On: 3/10/2013 12:00:00 AM By: stensson
10-year-old Wadjda lives in Saudi Arabia. She's a bit rebellious, which means she wears basket shoes in school, listens to Western rock at home and has befriended a boy her own age. But she mustn't sing too loud, because the men can hear her and get offended.

Wadjda wants to go further and have her own bicycle, which invites trouble in her country. The story is told in a very warm way and you learn one thing. People in cultures totally different from yours are very much like you.

Realism here. Everyday people having everyday problems, but not the problems you have. A humanistic film, which makes it concerning everybody.

A complex story told simply and well (IMDB: 9)

On: 10/13/2012 12:00:00 AM By: PoppyTransfusion
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.