For viewers looking for an introduction to Saudi Arabian film, “Wadjda” is a good, if not depressing choice. The 2012 film was directed by Haifaa al-Mansour – Saudi Arabia’s first female director. The film is also the first to be entirely shot in Saudi Arabia.
Wadjda takes viewers into the life of a young Saudi girl. In the film, Wadjda and her mother face similar difficulties to the filmmaker – who also could not associate with male crew members in public, making directing particularly hard.
All Wadjda wants to do is buy her own bike to race her best friend – a boy, with his own bike. However, girls don’t ride bikes in Saudi Arabia and Wadjda needs money to buy her own.
This leads Wadjda, the converse-wearing, American-radio-listening protagonist, to join a religious group, entering a competition about knowledge of the Quran.
Wadjda, an entrepreneurial child, realizes that if she wins, she’ll earn prize money for the bike.
Along the way, the movie exposes many rules present in Saudi society and gives viewers a glimpse into a culture they may be unfamiliar with.
Although the story could make viewers sad or angry at times because of the challenges Wadjda and her mother face, it is well worth watching.