1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Interesting look at life inside Saudi Arabia,
This review is from: Wadjda [DVD]  (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.