Every day Wadjda passes a toy store window showing a beautiful green bicycle. Although it is forbidden for girls to ride bicycles, Wadja concocts a plan to earn enough money to afford the bike by secretly selling ‘illicit products’ in her schoolyard. But her plans are soon exposed, leaving her with only one last chance to make the money she needs; a Koran recital competition with a big cash prize. With her slyness and cunning mind, Wadjda tries to find a way to rise above her fellow competitors to make her most cherished dream come true… the green bicycle.
Wadjda is a Saudi Arabian–German film. Its the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and is the first feature-length film made by a female Saudi director. The film was the Saudi Arabian entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2014 Oscars and it was the first time that Saudi Arabia submitted a film for the Oscars.
The movie can be said to be similar to or having been influenced by Majid Majidi’s Iranian classic Children of Heaven. This one also has a couple of young protagonists (boy-girl) and it revolves around Wadjda’s quest to attain the bicycle. There is a different competition in here – winning which should enable her to attain the bicycle but doesn’t get her what she wanted. The ending can also be termed similar to Children of Heaven.
But what makes this different is that this is also a movie which shows how strict and regressive the Saudi Arabian society is. Everything is banned or frowned upon. Girls are not supposed to ride bikes and 11 year girls have to wear Abaya to school. They cant even play in the school yard because some men can watch them and they are not even supposed to laugh because some men can hear their voice. Women have to hide on their balcony for fear that some male can view them. A 11 year old classmate comes back married to school. They have religious police which is shown in one scene in the movie. Wadjda’s father gets married again because Wadjda’s mother cannot beget him a son. And this same husband does not want her to work at the hospital because she would be in contact with other men.
The scenes where Wadjda sells her products in school and the scene where she passes the letter to “brother” of a girl from school are funny. Wajda striking a deal with Abdullah to use their wall in return for letting her ride the bike or immediately offering her hand out when offered a bribe are cute. The mother trying to stop her husband from marrying another woman by buying a red dress shows the sad situation of hers. And what happens after the Quran reciting competition is again sad. The final scene is the best scene of the movie and it captures the freedom and rebelliousness beautifully.
Waad Mohammed is excellent as Wadjda. She is cute and lovely in scenes where she is trying to earn money for her bicycle. She is spunky in her scenes with her friend Abdullah and and the life of the movie in every scene of hers. Abdullrahman Algohani is very good as her friend Abdullah. Reem Abdullah is very good as the mother and looked very pretty. Sultan Al Assaf is ok as the father in a small role. Ahd is very good as the strict teacher Ms Hussa.
Background music by Max Richter is excellent and Cinematography by Lutz Reitemeier is very good. Haifaa Al Mansour’s direction is very good. In spite of the underlying strict environment she keeps the movie lively and entertaining. There is no melodrama and everything is subtle. Even though Wadjda was made with official permission her effort is very remarkable because women are not allowed to work in public and she had to direct while sitting in a van. This is definitely a must watch and highly recommended.