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.