Dir. Haifaa Al-Mansour, Saudi Arabia, 2013, 98 min., PG, DCP, In Arabic with English subtitles Official Website
In a country where cinemas are banned and women’s rights suffer, Saudi Arabia’s first feature film by a female, writer and director Haifaa Al-Mansour, skillfully crafts this barrier-breaking film of many firsts. After a fight with a boy in her suburban Riyadh neighborhood, precocious 10-year-old Wadjda becomes fixated on a beautiful green bicycle for sale so that she can beat him in a race. Fearing repercussions from a society that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl's virtue, Wadjda’s mother won’t allow it. So Wadjda, through a series of schoolyard schemes, struggles to raise the money herself until she hears of a cash prize for a Koran recitation competition for students. She devotes herself to the memorization and recitation of Koranic verses, and her teachers begin to see sneaky young Wadjda as a model pious girl.
“A poignant fable about growing up female (and growing up, period) in a place where women’s autonomy is severely restricted. It’s a stunningly assured debut, a slyly subversive delight…” – Dana Stevens, Slate
“More than a critique of Saudi society, WADJDA offers a character with universal resonance and appeal.” – Peter Keough, Boston Globe