DRAMA; 1hr 31min (Arabic with subtitles)

STARRING: Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Abdullrahman al-Gohani, Sultan al-Assaf

Thief of hearts: Mohammed

Ten-year-old Wadjda (intuitive newcomer Mohammed) lives with stifling societal restrictions in suburban Riyadh. In a culture where women are cruelly minimised, she must cover her face, lower her voice and avoid the gaze of men in public. Her semi-separated parents (Abdullah and al-Assaf) are meanwhile squabbling over whether her father will take another wife.

Wadjda, a tomboy and a free soul, bobs to the surface of each repressive situation. Beneath her black robes are jeans and Converses, and she dreams of buying a spanking-new bike on which to race — and beat — her buddy Abdullah (Al Gohani). To raise the cash, she joins her school’s religion club and enters a Koran-reciting competition with a 1000-rial prize. When in Riyadh…


As Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker, every frame is a political statement for writer-director Haifaa al-Mansour. Wadjda is a homespun story with boldly assertive themes that reveal Saudi women behind closed doors. By learning to ride a bike, which Saudi girls are traditionally not permitted to do, Wadjda takes a daring stride towards liberation. On wheels, she’s a beautiful and powerful sight.