Wadjda is a massively important film as it is the first film directed by a Saudi woman (Haifaa Al Mansour) concerning itself with the oppression and subjugation of females, especially the socialization and upbringing of girls.
The titular Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) is a disarmingly candid ten-year-old who struggles against the nation’s strong traditions and culture in a bid to live life her own way as she is obsessed with Western pop culture.
The narrative arc of the story is Wadjda’s desire for a bike set against the schools spelling contest and the prejudice of her mother and the community who see the dangers of a young girl owning a bicycle – as bicycles are only for boys – they are seen as “dangerous for a girl’s virtue.”
There is more than a hint of ‘Bicycle Thieves’ about this, with the same portrait of family life and community exposed.
This Muslim girl, calls up film memories of adolescent Marjane Satrapi in ‘Persepolis’, however Wadjda is not so much a coming-of-age story as it is a story about the religious and cultural restrictions placed on women in modern-day Saudi Arabia.
The message of the film is that strong women have big dreams who will ultimately define and shape the nation.