Wadjda (2012)

Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Writer: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Cast: Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Abdullrahman Al Gohani, Ahd, Sultan Al Assaf

Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) lives with her mother (Reem Abdullah), while her father (Sultan Al Assaf) is mostly absent. In school Wadjda mostly gets into trouble for being a bit of a tomboy, something that her friend Abdullah (Abdullrahman Al Gohani) appreciates. Abdullah has a bike and Wadjda dreams of having one of her own, to race him. So she enters the school’s Quran contest to buy it with the prize money.

I expected this movie to be heavy. It is, after all, the first film by a female director from Saudi-Arabia and it tackles feminist issues. And you do get the feeling that Al-Mansour was afraid that she would be the last to be able to do this, so she did take on pretty much everything. But instead of weighing the story down, it gives the warmhearted way it is told texture and more flavor.


Wadjda is one of those movies that transports you somewhere else. It really felt to me that I got a pretty decent impression of life as a girl in Saudi-Arabia. And part of that is exactly the diversity of issues that Al-Mansour takes on. Whether it’s Wadjda being reminded to cover her hair or to wear black shoes, or her mother’s struggles. Whether it’s the random builder who catcalls Wadjda or the shopkeeper who is amused by her precociousness. Whether it’s her father thinking about getting a second wife or her best friend supporting her bike riding.  Whether it’s the director of the school who demands conformity while not conforming herself or the two girls in school who may or may not be lovers.

And I loved the resolution of the story. I loved that Wadjda got to take on society, but I loved how Al-Mansour shows that you might win a battle in that fight, but society will find a way to remain stable as it was. And I loved how Wadjda and her mother stick together, despite the pretty bad odds this society gives them.


Wadjda is a pretty great character. She’s precocious, as so many movie children tend to be, but she isn’t in an annoying way and she’s still very much a child. Waad Mohammed is also really fantastic. I also loved Reem Abdullah and the dynamic the two of them have togehter.

The movie is just really touching. It made me laugh, it made me also cry a bit and I just really enjoyed it. More movies should be like that: warm-hearted, entertaining, fun, political and smart. Perfect combination.


Summarizing: Yes, see it.


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