'Wadjda' is A Unique Film That Unveils Everyday Life in Saudi Arabia


I do not remember the story of my first bike. But I can assure you that the tale is unexceptional. The story of a Saudi Arabian girl named Wadjda’s first bike, on the other hand, is incredible.

"Wadjda" (2012) is a straightforward, but boundary-pushing film about a bold young girl who just wants to feel the wind in her covered hair as she peddles through her neighborhood streets inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

The acting in the movie is incredible and anchored by a brave performance by Waad Mohammed who brings the audience to both laughter and tears while becoming emotionally invested in her mission to defy social norms.

Artfully written by Saudi Arabia’s first female feature-length film director, Haifaa Al-Mansour, the first movie to be entirely filmed in the Kingdom follows young Wadjda and her blue-collar family through a trying time in the Riyadh suburbs where they live. Her father is contemplating leaving her mother for a son-bearing second wife, her mother is in complete denial and struggling to keep her life together, and Wadjda just wants to find a way to enjoy the freedom that comes from bike riding, something considered unladylike by many of the people in her life. 

The film views like a documentary and captures a panorama perspective of the role of women in society, the omnipotence of God in all of life’s dealings, social taboos such as painting nails in public, and many other intimate elements of everyday life in Saudi Arabia for the global community to see. 

In her writing and directing, Al Mansour expertly unveils intricacies of society, culture, and religion in the Kingdom by following a girl’s enterprising journey that takes places largely between her home and school. In doing so, she allows the film to honestly portray Wadjda’s struggle to creatively raise enough money to buy a bike despite a wealth of distractions.

"Wadjda" delivers a unique perspective through the eyes of a young Saudi girl, an honest portrayal of life for young women in the Kingdom, and a heartstring-tugging depiction of a family navigating some of life's harshest realities.

In the words of Ernest Hemingway, "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

The film is currently playing in select theaters around the U.S.