Wadjda (Arabic: وجدة) is a 2012 Saudi Arabian drama film, written and directed by Haifaa al-Mansour. It was the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first feature-length film made by a female Saudi director. It won numerous awards at film festivals around the world. The film was selected as the Saudi Arabian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards (the first time the country made a submission for the Oscars), but it was not nominated. It successfully earned a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the 2014 BAFTA Awards.
|Directed by||Haifaa al-Mansour|
|Written by||Haifaa al-Mansour|
|Music by||Max Richter|
|Edited by||Andreas Wodraschke|
|Distributed by||Koch Media (Germany, all media)|
|Box office||$14.5 million|
Based in the 2000s, Wadjda, a spirited 10-year-old Saudi girl living in the capital Riyadh, dreams of owning a green bicycle that she passes in a store every day on her way to school. She wants to race against her friend Abdullah, a boy from the neighborhood, but riding bikes is frowned upon for girls and Wadjda's mother refuses to buy one for her daughter. The bike is expensive too, costing SR800.
Wadjda begins to earn the money herself by selling mixtapes, hand-braiding bracelets for classmates and acting as a go-between for an older student. These activities run her into trouble with the strict headmistress. Her mother, meanwhile, is dealing with a job with a terrible commute with a driver who often gets angry with her for making him wait. He tells Wadjda's mother that he will no longer drive her to work, but Wadjda and Abdullah find where the man lives and visit his house to tell him to take her mother's business. After Abdullah threatens to have his "uncle with the moustache" kick the man out of the country, the driver agrees.
Meanwhile, Wadjda's grandmother on her father's side is looking for a second wife for her son, because Wadjda's mother cannot have any more children, and he wants a son. Wadjda's mother is angry and scared by this, and tries on a beautiful red dress for her brother-in-law's wedding to gain support and to "scare off" any potential women who may consider marrying her husband.
At school, Wadjda decides to participate in a Quran recital competition featuring a SR1,000 cash prize (equivalent of about US$270). Meanwhile two girls at the Madrasa are suspected of a lesbian relationship by the principal and shunned by everyone, though they were only reading magazines. Her efforts at memorizing the verses impress her teacher, and Wadjda wins the competition. The staff is shocked by Wadjda announcing her intention to buy a bicycle with the prize money. She is told by the headmistress that the money will instead be donated to Palestine on her behalf.
She returns home to find her father, and bursts into tears when he says he is proud that she won the competition. However, he does not talk to her much and says to tell her mother that he loves her, and leaves the home while taking a phone call. Later, Wadjda finds out that her father has taken a second wife, and watches the wedding ceremony from her roof with her mother. Wadjda suggests that her mother could buy the red dress and win her father over again, but her mother tells her that she had instead spent the money on the green bike her daughter wanted.
The next day, Wadjda rides down the street on her new bike. The owner of the bike shop sees her passing and smiles. She races against Abdullah and wins.
- Reem Abdullah as Mother
- Waad Mohammed as Wadjda (وجدة)
- Abdullrahman Al Gohani as Abdullah
- Sultan Al Assaf as Father
- Ahd Kamel as Ms Hussa (credited as Ahd)
- Ibrahim Al Mozael as Toyshop Owner
- Nouf Saad as Qu'ran Teacher
- Rafa Al Sanea as Fatima
- Alanoud Sajini as Fatin
- Rehab Ahmed as Noura
- Dana Abdullilah as Salma
- Mohammed Zahir as Iqbal - the Driver
According to the director Haifaa al-Mansour, it took five years to make Wadjda. She spent most of the time trying to find financial backing and getting filming permission, since she insisted on filming in Saudi Arabia for reasons of authenticity. She received backing from Rotana, the film production company of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. However, she very much wanted to find a foreign co-producer because "in Saudi there are no movie theatres, there is no film industry to speak of and, therefore, little money for investment". After her selection for a Sundance Institute writer's lab in Jordan, al-Mansour got in touch with the German production company Razor Film, which had previously produced films with Middle-Eastern topics (Paradise Now and Waltz with Bashir). The production involved co-operation with two German public TV broadcasters, Norddeutscher Rundfunk and Bayerischer Rundfunk. Additional funding came from Filmförderungsanstalt (FFA, Berlin); Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg GmbH (MBB, Potsdam); Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung GmbH (MDM, Leipzig); and Filmfonds Babelsberg (ILB, Potsdam-Babelsberg).
Al-Mansour's screenplay was influenced by neorealist cinema like Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves, Jafar Panahi's Offside or Rosetta. The final scene recalls the final scene of François Truffaut's The 400 Blows. Al-Mansour says that the original version of her screenplay was much bleaker than the finished product: "I decided I didn't want the film to carry a slogan and scream, but just to create a story where people can laugh and cry a little." Al-Mansour based the character of Wadjda on one of her nieces and also on her own experiences when growing up. The main themes of the story are freedom, as represented by the bicycle, and the fear of emotional abandonment, as Wadjda's father wants to take a second wife who will provide him with a son.
Wadjda was filmed on the streets of Riyadh, which often made it necessary for the director to work from the back of a van, as she could not publicly mix with the men in the crew. Often, she could only communicate via walkie-talkie and had to watch the actors on a monitor. This made it difficult to direct: "It made me realise the need to rehearse and to develop an understanding for each scene before we shot it."
Waad Mohammed, who plays Wadjda, was a first-time actress.
Wadjda received critical acclaim. The film-critics aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reported 99% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 102 reviews, with an average score of 8/10. The critical consensus is: "Transgressive in the best possible way, Wadjda presents a startlingly assured new voice from a corner of the globe where cinema has been all but silenced." Metacritic, which assigns a standardized score out of 100, rated the film 81 based on 26 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".
Film critics cite the ways Wadjda is able to grapple with important societal issues, while also accurately understanding the limits of large scale change. NY Times Film critic A.O. Scott states, "With impressive agility, Wadjda finds room to maneuver between harsh realism and a more hopeful kind of storytelling"; it accurately shows the immense challenges women face in Saudi Arabia, while also showing that there is room for change and growth. New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane feels similarly, as he argues that there are many ways Wadjda could have done more of a disservice to women in Saudi Arabia, rather than helping expose their inequality. He says that Wadjda strikes the right balance, in that it is enjoyable to watch, while also effective in calling for social change.
The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August 2012. It was released in Germany by Koch Media in 2013. Other distributors are: Pretty Pictures (France, theatrical), Sony Pictures Classics (USA, theatrical), Wild Bunch Benelux (Netherlands, theatrical), The Match Factory (Non-USA, all media) and Soda Pictures (UK, all media). It has been shown at several film festivals:
|Country||Release Date||Film Festival or full release||Note|
|Italy||31 August 2012||Venice Film Festival|
|USA||15 September 2012||Telluride Film Festival|
|Poland||28 November 2012||Filmy Swiata ale kino+ Festival|
|Iceland||29 November 2012||Fully|
|Italy||6 December 2012||Fully|
|Netherlands||26 January 2013||International Film Festival Rotterdam|
|Sweden||30 January 2013||Goteborg International Film Festival|
|Belgium||6 February 2013||Fully|
|France||6 February 2013||Fully|
|Serbia||23 February 2013||Belgrade Film Festival|
|Sweden||8 March 2013||Fully|
|Netherlands||16 May 2013||Fully|
|Spain||21 June 2013 in festival,
as of 28 June 2013 at movie theaters
|Festival Internacional de Cinema de València - Cinema Jove
(Valencia International Film Festival - Youth Cinema)
|UK||19 July 2013||Fully|
|Germany||25 July 2013||Fünf-Seen-Filmfestival|
|Germany||15 August 2013||Fully|
Other screenings include as the opening film of the 6th Gulf Film Festival in Dubai (11–17 April) and at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York (21/25 April). The film was scheduled to be released on DVD in February 2014.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipients and nominees||Result|
|Asia Pacific Screen Awards||12 December 2013||Best Children's Feature Film||Nominated|
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists||19 December 2013||Best Non-English Language Film||Nominated|
|This Year's Outstanding Achievement By a Woman in the Film Industry||Haaifa Al-Mansour for challenging the limitations placed on women within her culture.||Won|
|British Film Institute||20 October 2012||Sutherland Trophy||Haifaa Al-Mansour||Nominated|
|Dubai International Film Festival||18 December 2012||Muhr Arab Award||Waad Mohammed (Best Actress – Feature)
Roman Paul (Best Film – Feature)
Gerhard Meixner (Best Film - Feature)
|Fribourg International Film Festival||23 March 2013||Grand Prix||Haifaa Al-Mansour||Nominated|
|International Film Festival||1 June 2013||Südwind-Filmpreis||Haifaa Al-Mansour||Won|
|Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Awards||16 February 2014||Best Sound Editing: Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue & ADR in a Foreign Feature Film||Sebastian Schmidt||Nominated|
|National Board of Review||4 December 2013||NBR Freedom of Expression||Haifaa Al-Mansour||Won|
|Palm Springs International Film Festival||13 January 2014||Directors to Watch||Haifaa Al-Mansour||Won|
|Rotterdam International Film Festival||2 February 2013||Dioraphte Award||Haifaa Al-Mansour||Won|
|San Francisco Film Critics Circle||15 December 2013||Best Foreign Language Film||Nominated|
|Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival||27 November 2012||Don Quixote Award||Haifaa Al-Mansour||Special Mention|
|Netpac Award||Special Mention|
|Vancouver International Film Festival||12 October 2013||Most Popular International First Feature Award||Haifaa Al-Mansour||Won|
|Venice Film Festival||8 September 2012||CinemAvvenire Award||Haifaa Al-Mansour (Best Film—Il cerchio non è rotondo Award)|
|C.I.C.A.E. Award||Haifaa Al-Mansour|
|British Academy Film Awards||16 February 2014||Best Foreign Film||Haifaa Al-Mansour, Gerhard Meixner, Roman Paul||Nominated|
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- "La bicileta verde", Luis Tormo, Encadenados, Revista de Cine, 28 June 2013 (in Spanish). [Consulted 23 May 2018].
- "La primera directora de cine saudí estrena en España", HoyEsArte.com, 5 June 2013 (in Spanish). [Consulted 23 May 2018].
- "Haifaa Al Mansour, rompedora cineasta saudí. Su película ‘La bicicleta verde’ fue el primer filme rodado en Arabia Saudí, donde las salas de cine están prohibidas", Rocío Ayuso, El País, 22 June 2013 (in Spanish). [Consulted 23 May 2018].
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