REVIEW: Wadjda (2012)

wadjdaWadjda (Waad Mohammed) enters her school’s Koran recitation competition to raise money so she can buy the bicycle that she wants, even though she’s told girls can’t ride bikes. As she puts her plan into action, she also has to cope with problems at home.

Wadjda is a beautifully shot film that shows the everyday life for a young Saudi girl. She still gets in trouble with her teacher for wearing converse with bright laces instead of sensible shoes and for her money making business of selling wristbands to her fellow students.

The relationship between Wadjda and her mother (Reem Abdullah) is one of the best mother/daughter relationships I’ve seen in film. They fight about Wadjda wanting a bicycle but they also laugh and sing as they make dinner together. Often Wadjda hears her mother and father (Sultan Al Assaf) fighting so she does what any child would do and try and sleep or turn her music up to drown it out.

Wadjda seems to be a bit of a lonely child as she doesn’t have any friends who are girls and her only friend is Abdullah (Abdullrahman Al Gohani), a boy she shouldn’t be playing with. Their friendship is interesting as they often fight but after saying that girls can’t ride a bike, he helps her to learn how to ride a bicycle and will listen to her talk. It’s definitely the sweet friendship between young children we have all experienced to some extent.

Wadjda is a simple and charming story, but through that story you get to see into the everyday lives of a society and culture that is often viewed as complicated and “other”. Through Wadjda you can gain an insight to Saudi Arabia and how the culture effects women of any age. Wadjda is also notable as it is the first full-length feature film shot entirely within Saudi Arabia and directed by a woman, Haifaa Al Mansour.

It’s the relationships that make Wadjda so great. That and the way it’s shot and edited makes it often feel more like a fly-on-the-wall documentary about an ordinary girl and her family makes Wadjda a very watchable film. 4/5.

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