wadjda poster

[photo: Sony Classics]

There’s more than one reason why I’m so excited about Wadjda, and it’s not because I’m a huge foreign film nerd. Wadjda is a historic landmark for women and Saudi Arabia because not only is it the country’s first film, but it was also directed, written and stars women. Woohoo! You go Saudi Arabia! You go first female director Haifaa al Mansour and lead actress Waad Mohammed!

Why is it such a big deal? Saudi Arabia has a troubled past with women’s rights and virtually no film industry (partially due to the banning of movie theaters). From the very beginning it was a struggle, but al-Mansour insisted on filming the project in Saudi Arabia, to make the neo-realist style film as accurate and authentic as possible. It took 5 years to complete. Most of that time was spent getting film permits and finding financial support. Also, al-Mansour had to direct the crew and actors from the back of a van, because she couldn’t intermingle with men in public. Watch a video interview with al-Mansour here.

wadjda director haifaa al mansour

[photo: Oakland Local]

The plot is simple, but heart-warming and genuine which earned it 4 stars on IMdB and 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It follows a young Saudi girl, Wadjda, living in Riyadh, the capital city. She dreams of owning a bicycle that she sees in a store that she passes every day on her way to school, but is met with difficulties from her parents and her culture. Her mother refuses to buy the bike because she is trying to keep her husband from taking a second wife (common in Saudi culture). Wadjda is left to her own devices to get the bike herself.

wadjda with bike

[photo: Bleeding Cool

The film was premiered in August 2012 at the Venice Film Festival. Since then it has been in 10 festivals, including Tribeca, and won nine awards in total. It has been released in Iceland, Italy, Belgium, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK and Germany so we’re crossing our fingers it’s coming to the US soon because it’s been picked up by Sony Classics! For now, check out the trailer below.

Do you want to see Wadjda? 

Gabbi Ewing is a rising junior studying Journalism as well as Film & Television at NYU. She is a New Jersey native who enjoys traveling, writing, skiing, and swimming. She hopes to travel the world, but her next adventure is taking her to Sydney, Australia to study with NYU. She aspires to work for National Geographic or Discovery Channel and to use her film, photography and writing skills to help people experience new cultures and places that they don't have the opportunity to travel to themselves.


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