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Blu-ray Review: Wadjda

February 11, 2014

Wadjda Blu-ray CoverWadjda – A Sony Pictures Classics Release

http://www.sonyclassics.com/wadjda/

Blu-ray Release Date: February 11th, 2014

Rated PG for mature themes

Running time: 97 minutes

Haifaa Al-Mansour (dir.)

Haifaa Al-Mansour (writer)

Max Richter (music)

Waad Mohammed as Wadjda

Abdullrahman Algohani as Abdullah

Reem Abdullah as Mother

Sultan Al Assaf as Father

Our reviews below:

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Wadjda Blu-ray Review By John Corrado

***1/2 (out of 4)

Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) dreams of buying herself a bike so that she can race her best friend and neighbour Abdullah (Abdullrarahman Algohani).  But this dream that many of us would take for granted becomes a constant struggle for her, because in Saudi Arabia girls don’t ride bicycles.  Determined to follow her own path, the precocious 10-year-old finds ways to earn money for her purchase, selling homemade bracelets and finally entering a contest at her school that has a cash prize for reciting the Koran.

The wonderful Wadjda sheds light on sexism in a country where girls are expected to take orders and follow the same path, a message that is further illustrated by the fact that Haifaa Al-Mansour had to direct outdoor scenes through a walkie talkie in the back of a van.  A powerful story about perseverance and marching to the beat of your own drum, Wadjda is a delightful and sometimes heartbreaking film that offers a nuanced introduction to a culture bound by tradition.

The Blu-ray includes audio commentary and a Q&A with Haifaa Al-Mansour as well as a lengthy “making of” featurette.

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Wadjda Blu-ray Review By Erin V.

**** (out of 4)

The first feature length film made by a female Saudi director (Haifaa Al-Mansour), Wadjda tells the story of a young Saudi girl who just wants a bike to race her friend Abdullah (Abdullrarahman Algohani).  The bike costs 800 riyals though (over $200), and she is told repeatedly by her family and school that girls do not ride bikes.  Facing increasing pressure at her strict school to conform, Wadjda finds a way to get her principal to leave her alone (and raise money for the bike at the same time) by entering the school’s Koran recitation competition – which has a 1000 riyal prize.

The film is a touching and very real feeling story.  Wadjda is just a kid – with her own wants and dreams like a kid anywhere in the world.  She just lives in a society that places restrictions on females, and struggles to understand exactly why.  The character of Wadjda is funny, smart, and the young actress Waad Mohammed (according to IMDb, this is her first screen role) carries the performance flawlessly.

While the film is subtitled for English audiences, Wadjda could be watched by audiences both young and old (around 9-10+).  With a very relatable and simple idea behind it, this film says so much in 98 minutes, while being entertaining and simply telling a story.

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Wadjda Blu-ray Review By Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Wadjda is a charming, family friendly movie about persevering even when facing adversity.  10-year-old Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) is like any other child.  She enjoys playing with her friends and, like all children, has dreams and aspirations.  But her biggest challenge is being a girl in Saudi Arabia, where girls are to be seen (covered up) but not heard.  Wadjda wishes for a bike, to race her best friend Abdullah (Abdullrarahman Algohani).  Trouble is, bikes are considered a “boys” thing in Saudi Arabia.  However, Wadjda is unperturbed, and like a slick salesperson she sells homemade bracelets, and even finds her way into the school Quran competition.

Wadjda is a funny and eye opening film.  It reveals the sexist, oppressive views of much of the Middle East.  What really carries the film though is Waad Mohammed’s performance.  Wadjda is plucky, rebellious, clever and open minded.  She rises above the oppression with a determined attitude.

Director and writer Haifaa Al-Mansour has created believable characters.  Being a woman living in an oppressive regime brings an extra importance to her film, which is Saudi Arabia’s first movie ever made.  Wadjda is an inspiring film that is a perfect choice to show in schools.

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Wadjda Blu-ray Review By Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

One of the first things you notice about 10-year-old Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) is her bright blue running shoes peaking out from under her black religious outer garment, a striking contrast to her classmates’ plain black shoes.  Wadjda is a delightful and refreshingly free-spirited young girl.  The problem is, where she lives in Saudi Arabia, young girls are expected to follow the rules, stay covered and be quiet.

Wadjda’s determination is tested when she decides she wants the pretty green bicycle she passes by every day at a local store.  The bike costs a lot of money and girls aren’t even supposed to ride one.  Luckily her school is holding a contest for girls who can recite scriptures from the Qur’an and the prize money would cover the cost.  Maybe a new bicycle isn’t impossible after all.

Writer/director Haifaa Al-Mansour has done a wonderful job portraying the hopefulness and blind determination of a child whose spiritedness can’t be broken by the oppressive adults around her.  Waad Mohammed is a delight to watch as young Wadjda.

Made in Saudi Arabia, Wadjda gives an interesting glimpse into life in that country as seen from a female perspective.  Both entertaining and hopeful, Wadjda is worth checking out for audiences ages 10 and up.

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Wadjda Blu-ray Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Wadjda (وجدة‎) (Waad Mohammed) is a ten year old girl in suburban Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. An indifferent student with sneakers under her black madrassah robe, Wadjda challenges any rules of traditional society that get in her way. In her neighbourhood, public contact between females and unrelated males is unacceptable, and women are expected to go out in niqab (face covered). Driving licences in the Kingdom are still unavailable to women, and girls are discouraged from riding bicycles lest minor injury from a fall be taken as a loss of virginity (an acceptable excuse back in the day here, but not there). However, there is a boy Abdullah (Abdulrahman Al Gohani) with a bike, and Wadjda is determined to get one of her own to put their friendship on equal terms.

Her mother (Reem Abdullah) is unwilling to give Wadjda the money for a bicycle, as she has her own problems. She faces a daily three hour commute with a rude driver, while her husband (Sultan Al Assaf) is out shopping for a second wife since she can have no more children. Making bracelets, mix tapes and other deals to make money lands Wadjda more than once in the office of the headmistress (Ahd) for a scolding. When an upcoming school Qur’an competition is announced, she sees a chance for redemption along with a prize that would more than cover the price of the bike. However, even with the aid of an instruction DVD, interpreting the classical Arabic in the assigned chapters and chanting them from memory prove to be a real challenge.

A Saudi-German co-production, this is the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. As a woman, the director Haifaa Al-Mansour faced additional challenges as she had to remain hidden in a van in public so as not to be seen working with men. The no-frills production in a neorealist style has an entirely indigenous cast, though both Ahd and the director have studied in the U.S. By telling a simple story with great charm and an inspiring young leading actress, Wadjda manages to gently challenge a society whose sexist repression, though often in the west unfairly attributed to religion, is mainly based on tradition.

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Consensus: The first movie made in Saudi Arabia, Wadjda tells a powerful story about persevering over adversity and following your own path, with a wonderful performance from young Waad Mohammed in the title role.  ***3/4 (Out of 4)

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