Saturday Selections: Wadjda (movie)

A movie about a girl who wants a bicycle may not sound all that riveting, but throw that girl into the unbending social rules of Saudi Arabia and you’ve got a fascinating tale.

About the Movie

Wadjda (2012) PosterWadjda is a ten-year-old girl who doesn’t conform to how girls in her school or town are supposed to act. She wears her own fashions, listens to rock and roll and isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind. She also wants a bike so she can race (and beat) the neighborhood boy, Abdullah. And in her world, girls do not ride bikes because it is considered lewd, harmful to their ability to bear children, and puts their very virginity at risk.

But it’s lack of money rather than adhering to social norms that prevents Wadjda from getting the bike she has her eyes on. When the annual Koran recitation contest comes around with a prize that will be more than enough to pay for the bike, the enterprising Wadjda sees her chance…despite the fact that she barely knows one word of the passages she is meant to memorize.

As she studies, Wadjda not only must convince the salesman not to sell “her” bike, she needs to learn how to ride a bike while keeping her lessons secret from her mother, and must watch her mother’s fears of being put aside if her father takes a second wife who will give him a son.

An Enjoyable Film

Although frustrating to watch the silly rules and attitudes woman endure and perpetuate in the Saudi culture (such as schoolgirls having to hide themselves because some men are working on the roof and might see them), the film is an enjoyable look into this world. Wadjda’s yearnings and struggles to obtain what she wants are very easy to relate to, and her wise humor keeps the movie light.

Although Wadjda’s father makes a few appearances and her friend Abdullah plays an important role in her life, the movie is mainly about the lives of women and their various interactions under some strict behavioral rules. On one hand, some women seem more than ready to break out of their head coverings and prove their equality to men, some women accept the head covering and segregation without being fanatical about it, while others are severe in their enforcement of the rules – even while breaking the rules they force others to obey.

While Wadjda does seem to be one of the ones who will break out from the rules, you are left wondering if her independent streak will survive in the culture she is being raised in.

So, if you’re ready for a movie that is both light-hearted while making you think a bit, find a copy of Wadjda and pop it in your player!