Movie about Saudi Arabia highlights social issues


“If I had a bike you would see.”


After a neighbor boy chases Wadjda down on his bike and pulls off her headscarf, taunting her and making her catch up to it, this shout escapes Wadjda, creating the premise for the film.

The 2012 feature film, “Wadjda”, the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, follows 10-year-old Wadjda’s quest for a bike. She is living in a suburb of Riyadh, and has her eyes on a beautiful green bike, complete with handlebar tassels. When she inquires about the bike, the shopkeeper tells her it costs 800 rials, “too expensive for you.”

When her mother refuses to buy a bicycle for her, Wadjda shows her determination, enrolling in a Quran recitation contest. The contest consists of two parts, the first is definitions and the second is recitation, and offers a 1,000 rial prize.

Written and directed by Haidaa Al Mansour, making this the first feature film made by a female Saudi filmmaker, this film is for those who love foreign films. The subtitles can get a little tough to understand, but the insight the film offers into life in Saudi Arabia makes the struggle worth it.


The film showcases female oppression, from having to wear a headscarf to not being allowed to ride a bike. The headmaster of Wadjda’s school requests that she come to school the next day covered, shaming her in the process.


Wadjda’s mother accuses her father of trying to take another bride. Wadjda’s mother is not able to have any more children, leaving the family without a son, signifying son preference. In the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive, leaving Wadjda’s mother to rely on a driver to get her to and from work.

As a person who enjoys watching foreign films and is fascinated by Islam, this movie was perfect for me. Rotten Tomatoes scored Wadjda at 99 percent and IMDb gave it a 7.6 out of 10. The consensus seems to be that this film came from a corner of the world that we rarely experience, and there is appreciation for that.


“Wadjda” will play at 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in Woodland Theater of Davies Center.