Original Title: Wadjda
Country: Saudi Arabia
Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Genre: Comedy, Drama
16.12.2019: This review was first published on 20.04.2018 and is being updated for a more complete review, together with the publishing of the YouTube Version.
Hello, Welcome to Ulven Reviews!
Wadjda is a movie from Saudi Arabia, released in 2012 and directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour. It tells the story of a girl who dreams about riding a bike with her friend in a society oppressed towards women.
World Cup Historic
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation is a FIFA affiliated since 1956 but only started playing official tournaments in 1984, when they participated and won the AFC Asian Cup.
As for World Cup, Saudi Arabia had their first appearance in 1994, reaching the Round of 16. After that, in 1998, 2002 and 2006, they stopped at the group stage.
Russia 2018 was Saudi Arabia’s fifth participation in the competition. They lost the first two matches, against Russia and Uruguay, but in the last minute of the final game, Salem Al-Dawsari scored the winner against Egypt.
With the win, Saudi Arabia exceeded my expectations, reaching third place in the group with three points, while I was pretty sure they would lose every game and finish bottom of the group.
Congratulations Saudi Arabia National Team.
Wadjda and its writer/director Haifaa Al-Mansour are pioneers as the first movie shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first full-length movie directed by a Saudi woman, however, she did receive death threats for doing her job.
Recently, Saudi Arabia is changing many restrictive policies of the past intending to open the country to the rest of the world, presenting the kingdom as a viable tourist destination.
In this effort, some of the kingdom’s actions were, allow women to drive, to attend to football games and after decades, bring cinema back, beginning with screenings of the movie Black Panther (from 2018) and now, even opening cinema chains.
However, the country still has a long way to go regarding women’s rights and even human rights in general. After the recent law allowing women to travel without the permission of a man, the news site The Week published an article entitled “Things that women in Saudi Arabia still can’t do“.
The article lists that women in Saudi Arabia still can’t wear clothes or make-up that show off their beauty, interact with men, compete in sports and try on clothes when shopping.
That’s the society in which our story unfolds.
Wadjda, played by Waad Mohammed, is a smart 10 years-old girl who wishes to have a bike so she can ride with her friend Abdullah, played by Abdullrahman Al Gohani.
Even though riding a bicycle is not forbidden for girls, it’s not something well seen in their society as well, so Wadjda’s mother, portrayed by Reem Abdullah, doesn’t want to give her the bike.
The determined girl doesn’t give up and start selling DIY things and even doing favors to the older kids so she can buy the bike herself. When that doesn’t work as well, she decides to enter a Koran recital competition with a prize high enough to afford the so-desired bike.
Waad Mohammed was only 11 years old at the time of the filming and managed to do an incredible job as a debutant actress, carrying the movie as the protagonist. Unfortunately for us, the girl, now 20, is more of a model and social media celebrity than a movie actress.
I think Waad was brilliant and I would love to see more films with her participation, but so far, Wadjda was the first and only movie in her career.
The two other actors I already mentioned in the review also had Wadjda as the only film in their careers, at least according to IMDb. Both Abdullrahman Al Gohani and Reem Abdullah gave great performances regardless of how many titles they have under their resumés.
I still have to mention an important character, the school director, Ms. Hussa, brilliantly portrayed by Ahd Kamel. She is the only one with more roles in the career according to IMDb.
The plot is simple, yet effective, the bike is just the McGuffin, what matters is Wadjda’s journey and growth in an environment where there is no place or voice for women.
Wadjda is a film that you can enjoy more if you watch with attention or watch more than once because not everything is spoonfed to you, so you can notice hints on certain things if you’re paying attention.
It’s a light-hearted and fun movie, it has some funny moments but it’s not the type of comedy that intends making you laugh from beginning to end, but to enjoy a fun story without avoiding harsh realities.
I think some topics could be better explored, but it’s the only thing I have to criticize about Al-Mansour’s work. In spite of that, I cannot recommend this movie further, 9 Moons.