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Film review: Wadjda

The film is a heartfelt coming-of-age story and a clever critique of Saudi culture

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Tabloid on Saturday

Wadjda hurries through the dusty streets desperate to race the boys and beat them at their own games. “Girls don’t ride bikes,” says her mother. “You won’t be able to have a child if you ride bikes.”

Wadjda is both a heartfelt coming-of-age story and a clever critique of Saudi culture, with a plot which pivots between a repressive school and a troubled home.

Wadjda’s father claims to love his wife, but is nonetheless off scouting a second wife who might bear him a son. Inside the school grounds, the girls are forbidden from touching the Quran if they are having their period and are summarily banned from laughing in the yard.

It certainly stirs debate. Wadjda hangs out with a neighbourhood boy, Abdullah, and when Wadjda sees a bike she wants in a local shop, she starts saving the money she makes from selling bracelets at school. When a Quran recital and competition is announced at her school, with a big cash prize, she eyes her prize. Tailored to highlight the pressures and difficulties faced by women in Saudi Arabia, especially those, like Wadjda, who dare to rebel against the system, the film hits all the right notes. It’s beautifully shot yet still possesses a sense of urgency – maybe due to the circumstances under which it was filmed.