Critics Consensus

Transgressive in the best possible way, Wadjda presents a startlingly assured new voice from a corner of the globe where cinema has been all but silenced.



Total Count: 118


Audience Score

User Ratings: 13,442
User image

Watch it now

Wadjda Photos

Movie Info

WADJDA is a movie of firsts. This first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia is the story of a young girl living in a suburb of Riyadh determined to raise enough money to buy a bike in a society that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl's virtue. Even more impressive, WADJDA is the first feature film made by a female Saudi filmmaker. In a country where cinemas are banned and women cannot drive or vote, writer- director Haifaa Al Mansour has broken many barriers with her new film. (c) Sony Classics


News & Interviews for Wadjda

Critic Reviews for Wadjda

All Critics (118) | Top Critics (35) | Fresh (117) | Rotten (1)

  • The overall pro-freedom message comes through loud and clear. Rhetorically speaking, the trick of using childish innocence to reveal adult hypocrisy is virtually foolproof.

    Mar 21, 2014 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • It's a provocative but credible premise and in exploring it, Al Mansour has come up with an engagingly subversive character. Wadjda is a delight.

    Mar 21, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Al Mansour's first feature film is a striking achievement.

    Dec 10, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • The most radical and cheering message of Wadjda is that a change isn't just possible, but inevitable.

    Dec 10, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • "Wadjda" earns extra points just for being what it is. Who knew that, in a country that famously frowns on women driving cars, some are even allowed to make movies?

    Oct 17, 2013 | Rating: 3/4
  • This delightful debut feature by a Saudi woman named Haifaa Al-Mansour uses a bicycle as a metaphor for freedom within a social circumference.

    Oct 17, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Wadjda

  • Apr 27, 2014
    A very simple story, but told with a big heart, <i>Wadjda</i> is a film entirely shot in Saudi Arabia about an intrepid girl who seeks to raise money participating in her school's Koran recitation competition in order to beat his annoying neighbour in a bicycle race. That's the entire central plot, but around it, several relevant elements about a repressed and fundamentalist society lie between frames, and come out to the surface very explicitly. Relevant to say and trascendent to point out, <i>Wadjda</i> has historically national relevance in Saudi Arabia for being the first feature made by a female filmmaker. Around the main character Wadjda, we see the Muslim culture very explicitly and the current cultural state regarding the appreciation and discrimination against women. In a country where the physical image of a woman is not to be seen, where her voice is not to be heard (as it is considered as discovering her nakedness), where Saudi women constitute 18.6% of the country's native workforce as of 2011, where Saudi women will be first allowed to vote in local elections in 2015, and where the religious traditions make men lead a strictly ritualistic life so that they can get to Paradise, a concept that includes 70 beautiful women per man waiting for you in the afterlife perpetually, <i>Wadjda</i> takes the side of women without becoming exaggerated, melodramatic or pessimistic, but abundantly realistic and honest... even heartfelt, and sometimes effectively humorous! In fact, it even From the perspective of an abandoned mother and from the perspective of a girl who refuses to live under imposed norms while her aspirations to ride a bicycle are interrupted because riding a bycicle is considered "impure for virgin women", Al-Mansour defies the norms like a remarkably brave woman, and, with a powerfully executed story, becomes a name that should be written down in every cinephile's notebook for future reference, because her style shines. Despite some very simplistic and rather predictable and somewhat "soap-opera fabricated" events and shortcomings depicted, which correlate negatively against the film's more realism-oriented message and its socially relevant statements quite terribly, <i>Wadjda</i> follows the more recent Eastern tradition first set by Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, and later continued by names such as Kiarostami, Majidi and Barmak (<i>Osama</i> [2003]), following Kiarostami's philosophy: "Always <b>follow</b> your characters." Indeed, we follow for 97 minutes a tender, strong, and intrepid idealized personification of what women are currently seeking in a country so long submerged in conflict. 74/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Dec 26, 2013
    Taking her cues from THE BICYCLE THIEF, writer/director Haifaa Al-Mansour brings us WADJDA, a movie of firsts. It's the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, the first Foreign Film Academy Award entry from the Kingdom, and the first Saudi feature film directed by a woman. Like its Italian neorealist classic inspiration, WADJDA is a deceptively simple story of a person in search of a bike. In this case, we follow an 11-year-old girl who dreams of purchasing a green bicycle so that she can race against her neighborhood friend, Abdullah. Wadjda (a priceless Waad Mohammed) is a crafty, spunky young woman who doesn't entirely conform to her country's rules. She's a bit of a hustler as well, overcharging for bracelets so that she can raise money for her bike that much quicker. Bikes, you see, are considered inappropriate for females. [Note: In April 2013, Saudi Arabia has loosened its restrictions on women riding bikes, but they still aren't allowed to drive] She lives at home with her mother (heartbreakingly played by Reem Abdullah), who is married to a man seeking a second wife. In a country where women far outnumber the men, and where women's rights are almost non-existent, it has become an economic necessity for the men to take care of more than one woman. The genders are strictly segregated, yet young Wadjda doesn't play by those rules. At school, all of the young girls are rushed inside when two men work on the roof, but Wadjda stays put. She wears black Converse sneakers whereas everyone else sport sensible shoes. It doesn't take long to understand the allegorical nature of this film, as a quiet scream against oppression. Many films from Iran follow this lead, embedding political statements within stories of young, innocent children. WADJDA, however, is far less overt. Although the severity of life for women is freely presented, and the hypocrisy of those in a position of power are exposed, it does so with a gentle, loving touch. At the screening I attended, Al-Mansour explained that in order to make her film, she had to obey a strict checklist of do's and don'ts. She feels it's better to effect change with kindness in the face of oppressors. Even when Wadjda enters a Qur'an reading contest in order to win enough prize money to buy her bike, the readings are presented as things of beauty. The Head Principal of her school ( a strikingly beautiful and excellent actress named Ahd), who despite taking on a villainous role, is simply doing what she feels is right. This is a very straightforward story which takes it time laying out its strands. Patience, however, is richly rewarded by a last act that is a thing of beauty. The story strands all fall into place and build to a surprisingly moving final set of scenes. Al-Mansour stays out of the way, giving us simple, unfussy images. It's a treat just to get a glimpse into a country so carefully kept under wraps. The making of this film is almost as interesting as the film itself. Forbidden to mix with the male crew, Al-Mansour had to direct from a van, using a monitor and walkie-talkies to direct her actors and crew. Considering it's a country with no cinemas and no film industry to speak of, getting WADJDA to the screen is a miracle in and of itself. Al-Mansour also named Jafar Panahi's OFFSIDE as an inspiration, and it's easy to see why. The Iranian film about young girls who disguise themselves as boys in order to watch a World Cup Soccer match, also treated its antagonists with a gentleness. Whether one believes that the squeaky wheel gets the grease or if you can catch more bees with honey, WADJDA got made despite impossible odds, and may very well help change an entire culture. Take that THOR 2!
    Glenn G Super Reviewer
  • Oct 25, 2013
    Writer-director Haifaa Al-Mansour does the impossible. She has produced a film in a country with no film industry to speak of. Add that she is female in a community where women are forbidden to publicly interact with unrelated men. Wadjda is fascinating because it does two things brilliantly. One, it offers a gripping narrative of a captivating character. Secondly it also serves as a document of Saudi society. The director even fashions a climactic Koran recital contest as an edge-of-your-seat nail-biter. We get an expert's view from the inside. The presentation of culture was a real eye opener for this critic. The strict moral codes might be described as oppressive, yet the milieu never reads that way. Joyful, effervescent and uplifting, this is about the triumph of the human spirit. How one rebellious little girl deals with her innocent desire to simply own a bike. Saudis can still watch movies via satellite, DVD and video in the privacy of their own homes. Perhaps one day they will be able to see this in a cinema. You however don't have that problem. Please exercise that right and see this film. fastfilmreviews.wordpress.com
    Mark H Super Reviewer
  • Oct 13, 2013
    At school, Wadjda(Waad Mohammed) is on the wrong end of the attention of Ms. Hussa(Ahd), the principal, not only for her purple laced high top sneakers, but also her attitude and lack of total head covering. On the way to school, she meets up with her friend Abdullah(Abdullrahman Al Gohani) but cannot keep up with him on his bike. That remains the case until she spots a new one at a toy store that costs 800 riyals. After being able to scrounge together 80 riyals, her mother(Reem Abdullah) refuses to make up the difference as she has difficulties of her own to deal with. And then a possible solution presents itself to Wadjda... "Wadjda" is a very charming and endearing movie. Considering this is Saudi Arabia, these female characters have to negotiate a social minefield on a daily basis, and therefore a discussion of politics is inevitable.(Even the tricky situation involving Wadjda's parents falls under this label.) So, how exactly did this movie get made in a country that generally does not make movies in the first place? First, it looks like a few concessions were made like the worst offenses being committed by foreign workers, a subplot about elections which always looks good to casual observers and the movie revolving around a Koran contest, which could be said to speak to Wadjda's possible spiritual conversaion while the smart thing for her mother to do would be to find her a good business school, instead. After all that, I think another answer might be in the Saudi Arabian authorities actually approving the depiction of these restrictions which is all the more depressing.
    Walter M Super Reviewer

Wadjda Quotes

News & Features