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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing and uplifting insight into Islam
This is a slightly edited version of my review of the film written for English-speaking friends after I saw it in the cinema in July 2013:

"Oh joy! 5/5 ... This is an incredible film and if, after reading this you want to, you really should try to see it. Yes, yes, I know it's in Arabic with subtitles, but ...

"It's a Saudi/German collaboration,...
Published 6 months ago by R

versus
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Talk about how a country will develop, always assuming that the american "free trade free raid" culture is the way forward.....
Reading a review here typically written by an insular person who obviously is immersed in the vile violence drug and sex drenched sick culture that is being exported all over this planet by the yanks, how patronising to say; "it will be interesting to see how their (the Ryad) culture will "develop" B******T when their culture is older and certainly is superior...
Published 1 month ago by Miles Dexter


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing and uplifting insight into Islam, 25 Sep 2013
This review is from: Wadjda [Blu-ray] [2013] (Blu-ray)
This is a slightly edited version of my review of the film written for English-speaking friends after I saw it in the cinema in July 2013:

"Oh joy! 5/5 ... This is an incredible film and if, after reading this you want to, you really should try to see it. Yes, yes, I know it's in Arabic with subtitles, but ...

"It's a Saudi/German collaboration, directed by a Saudi woman, about the lives of Muslim women in a run-down, tribal and very conservative Riyadh suburb. The uplifting conclusion will be an inspiration to anyone except perhaps conservative[s of all faiths] ... who will - very wrongly in my view - be indignant at 'all this heresy'...

"So, while the fact that it has been made at all - and is a big critical success - is incredible, it's wonderful to report that this film does for contemporary suburban Saudi life what John Reith said the BBC should do: educate, inform, and entertain. It's a sensitive insight into Muslim women's lives and a window on the teachings of the Koran. It comes from the liberal part of Islam. And it is amusing, sad and dramatic, and beautifully filmed and acted.

"If I had to say which films it reminded me of most, I'd say an unexpected, bizarre and enthralling mélange of If... (Lindsay Anderson, 1968) and Breaking away (Peter Yates, 1979). Yes, it's about badly-behaved school misfits with a dislike of authority and a passion for cycling. I really just can't think why it was that I empathized with the film so strongly!

"There is something odd about the English subtitles in places. But, without seeing the film again, perhaps it was that some of the characters were ignorant of aspects of Arabic grammar and this was being translated deliberately into what we saw on the screen to help our understanding. Anyway, it in no way marred an otherwise excellent experience.

"Quite a few of those of us who'd seen the film [at the showing I went to] ended up afterwards in an eatery next door. I noted we were all staring into space - and then at each other! - with delight about what we'd just seen. And, when I went to Ilford town centre this morning and saw partially- and fully-veiled women coming towards me, I said to myself, 'I know more about you now than I did only 12 hours ago'. What a brilliant result?!

"One for the DVD collection (I trust it'll be on disc soon) in due course ..."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A first! And suitable for children too., 17 Feb 2014
This review is from: Wadjda [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
I had no idea that film making was illegal in Saudi Arabia and that there are no cinemas. I picked up these two gems from the half hour documentary which is on the Extras. I'd advise you to watch the making of the film and you will see the tremendous difficulties the film crew had to contend with just to film simple takes i.e. a girl walking down the street. Using a state school was expressly forbidden by the authorities.
The film is very well done. Very professional when you consider the circumstances. If you know nothing about the day to day lives of average Saudi Arabians then this is certainly a good window onto it. The girl is excellent in the role and really stands out - as does her little friend Abdullah. The Head Mistress is a right hypocrite and has the faces to match!
If you believe religion is similar to a viral infection then this film will only reinforce that view. The restrictions placed on the most menial human contacts or expressions of one's humanity are all too evident - especially for women. The film is suitable for children as - lets face it - even an ankle isn't seen in this society. I do hope they produce more of these films but I would doubt it. No doubt when the male authorities learn of it they will try and ban it. It may end up being the first and last of its kind.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving and interesting - good for children as well as adults, 8 Aug 2013
This review is from: Wadjda [Blu-ray] [2013] (Blu-ray)
Wadjda is the story of a Saudi Arabian girl who wants to have her own bike. It's the first feature length film to be directed in Saudi Arabia by a female, Waifaa Al-Mansour.

The film starts with a school scene, and ten year old Wadjda is struggling against the constraints of school and society. There is tension at home too. Wadjda's father is thinking of taking a second wife. He wants a son, which Wadjda's mother cannot bear him.

Against this background, Wadjda wants to own a bike so that she can enjoy the freedom of racing against her best friend, a boy named Abdullah. To this end, she embarks upon an entrepreneurial drive, selling homemade bracelets and mix tapes from the radio, and running errands. But before Wadjda can achieve her dream of riches, the innocence of her errands is tipped upside down as easily as her bag full of contraband goods. Such things are forbidden in school, in society, where even innocent errands lead to the edges of a skirmish with the religious police.

Thus thwarted, the only route left to Wadjda is that of winning the school's Qu'ran recitation and knowledge competition. 1000 riyals are up for grabs, but this is going to be a long haul, as evidenced by a hilarious scene involving a games console, a huge flat screen television, and Islam's own version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

There's a satisfying twist towards the end, and the ending itself is bittersweet, and a bit teary. Just as this is a film about society and the choices available to it, it is a film about a mother and a daughter and sacrifices and choices that individuals make. We don't know what will happen to Wadjda, just as we have no idea how society in Saudi will develop. All we see is individuals developing, and gaining the strength to reach out to the things they want, however small they are.

Although not described as a children's film, I watched this with my children and thought it was a good way of showing them how other societies work as well as being moving and interesting as an adult's film.

See longer review at [...]
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5.0 out of 5 stars wadjda, 12 April 2014
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This review is from: Wadjda [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
We used to live in Riyadh so the film had probably more of an impact on us. Were fascinated with the after story like the making of the film and the interviews with Saudi women.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Slow but a revealing and ultimately uplifting experience, 9 April 2014
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This review is from: Wadjda (Blu-ray)
This film doesn't shout and scream, it goes along at it's own leisurely pace but perhaps it is all the more powerful for that. For me it's about the mechanisms that powerful parts of society's use to control and suppress less powerful individual's or groups. The story focusses on the role of females in Saudi society which is driven by an Islamic culture or at least an interpretation of Islam that's employed by the powers that be. The principle could equally apply to other religions and other groups or even to control mechanisms other than religion.

It's the story of one girl who won't let her spirit and her dream be swept aside by the pressure to conform. It's a human interest story that doesn't particularly demonise any of the characters because it recognises that they are all trapped to a greater of lesser degree by their circumstances.

If you're looking for great drama and action look elsewhere but if you want to understand something about the place of women in Saudi society without being preached to then this is a sweet, engaging, gentle and ultimately uplifting introduction. I would rate it 3.5 stars if I had the option.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fresh and interesting, 8 April 2014
This review is from: Wadjda (DVD)
'Wadjda' offers a fresh insight into Islam, and breaks many barriers in its making. For this reason alone, it is worth seeing. Arguably a little slow, but by the final sequence your heart is lifted and you feel like change for the good is always possible in the world. Not astonishing as I'd hoped, but certainly a fantastic film that offers an antidote to the constantly watered down "issues" cinema pumped out by big studios. This feels real, and it is clear the film makers know what they are talking about.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming & disturbing, quiet but strong, 6 April 2014
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This review is from: Wadjda [Blu-ray] [2013] (Blu-ray)
A story that really needs to be told about women's lives in Saudi Arabia, in so many ways. Whilst the story itself is very good, the setting of her mother's life and struggles mirrors and strengthens this. Let's only hope there are many more Wadjda's out there (plus many more boys like her friend who will respect her more, not less, for having dreams and working towards them), strong enough to stand up to the system in their own little ways. And that's without considering the way the film was actually made by a woman director (by walkie-talkie from inside a white van for the outdoor scenes), and has managed to get out onto the international film circuit.... well done!
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5.0 out of 5 stars An endearing and charming contribution to world ciema...., 1 Mar 2014
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Jd Holloway "Jeremy Holloway" (Kingswear, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wadjda [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
I first saw this film when it first came out and then only because it was scheduled on my shift. But I was so glad I saw it. Culture is a difficult subject to describe / understand but this film gives a genuine and non-judgemental insight into life in Saudi Arabia. The fact that the film has such a talented and endearing cast is a bonus. The young girl, who is the focus of the film, is very natural in her role, the co-stars are also well up to their task of creating a scenario that is both realistic and problematic in a country that is not keen on any sort of female empowerment. This is definitely a "feel-good factor" film, you will come out smiling, guaranteed. There are political aspects to the making of this film that have been well publicised but the finished result is both charming and endearing. Excellent.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting look at life inside Saudi Arabia, 6 Jan 2014
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Andres C. Salama (Buenos Aires, Argentina) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wadjda [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
Wadjda is the first film made in Saudi Arabia, a country where cinema theaters are banned. And is directed by a woman (Haifaa al Mansour), no less, and has a quasi feminist theme as well. The simple plot centers around Wadjda (played by Waad Mohammed), a rowdy girl, about 11 years old, living in Riyad who dreams of owning a bicycle (in Saudi Arabia, the movie tells us, girls riding bicycles are frowned upon). In order to buy a bicycle, she enters a contest in her girls-only school for recitation of the Koran with a cash prize, despite the misgivings of the harsh, stern headmistress (played by an actress called simply Ahd, in perhaps the best performance of the film).

The movie reminds me of some Iranian films of the past that also are centered on children (for example, Abbas Kiarostami's early films or Majid Majidi "Pedar" and "Children of Heaven"). I suppose directors from conservative countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia chose movies centered on children's since films dealing with adult themes would surely hit censorship issues. Perhaps the movie has more social interest than cinematic interest (though it is well filmed). It is fascinating to see the contrast between the relatively affluent society (Wadja's house has all the latest gadgets) and the very conservative traditions of the country (at one point, for example, the mother of Wadjda is afraid that her husband will take a second wife, as it is allowed there). Or we see one of the girls in the school, of Wadjda's age, showing the photos of her marriage to an older man. And once when Wadjda falls from a bicycle and draws blood, her mother is at first afraid her hymen has broken - virginity in women is extremely valued in Saudi Arabia. A very interesting movie to watch, especially since life in Saudi Arabia is very seldom shown in movies.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Seed of Change, 26 Nov 2013
This review is from: Wadjda [Blu-ray] [2013] (Blu-ray)
I saw this film while flying to Mexico - not always the best way to see a movie for the first time, but having lived for 25 years in Saudi Arabia, I had to watch it - I was thrilled to know that a Saudi woman had not only made a film, but that it was about a Saudi girl born into this time. I thought there would be few surprises given my time there, but there were - even I was not quite prepared for the depth of attitude and social constraints on Saudi women. I am not Muslim but I realise that these are cultural restraints rather than Islamic ones, and I hope fellow film watchers will remember that.

A beautiful telling of this girl's story, which must be replicated in thousands across Saudi Arabia. Slowly, change will come, and it will no longer be disrespectful for Saudi young women to ride bicycles, or accept the unacceptable.

G.H.
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Wadjda [DVD] [2012]
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