Country: Saudi Arabia / Germany
Movie Review: “Wadjda” is the first feature film accomplished by a female Saudi director, the debutant Haifaa Al-Mansour, who was triply awarded in Venice and has to be congratulated for this rewarding piece of cinema. Set in the suburbs of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the story tactfully follows Wadjda (Waad Mohammed), an 11-year-old girl whose dream is to buy a green bicycle that is exposed in front of a store where she passes every day. This gives rise to a problem since girls from her culture are discouraged to ride bikes and her mom, who is more concerned with the possibility of her husband's second marriage, does not even consider that fact. But Wadjda is determined not to give up, and her eye for business and some special favors conceded to a schoolteacher will bring her an extra income, which nevertheless is insufficient. Her last hope is to win the school's Koran contest whose cash prize is considerably large. With a touch of modernity, the film addresses the strict morals of a society and their impact on women with a sort of lightness and freedom that are not very common on movies alike. There is sweetness in the children’s non-harmful but illicit operations to get what they want, but there is also an evident disappointment and frustration in Wadjda’s mother that is understandable. Merit goes to the newcomer filmmaker who built a compelling drama with great sense of storytelling and handled with expertise and absolute confidence.