When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences released its list of foreign language film entries earlier this month, Saudi Arabia was on the list for the first time with “Wadjda.” The film tells the story of Wadjda, a 10-year old girl living a suburb of Riyadh. When her mother forbids her from buying a bicycle, Wadjda decides to raise money to buy it herself.
Saudi Arabia’s entry is notable for another reason. “Wadjda” is the first feature-length film from a female filmmaker in Saudi Arabia. The LA Times reported that when director Haifaa Mansour was shooting street scenes for the film, she worked from the back of a van and watch from a monitor to avoid being seen publicly giving directions to men.
Americans are likely to view “Wadjda” as a political film due to the circumstances of women in Saudi Arabia. However, audiences should remember that the film was made with the approval of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture. It was also the government’s official Oscar submission.
The film has been released in the United States and is earning positive feedback from reviewers. In The Seattle Times, John Hartl writes that the film “spins a tale of girl power” and provides a “look at a society that seems not so different from our own.” Some are calling it a favorite to be officially nominated for the Oscars in January.
If you have seen “Wadjda,” what did you think?