wadjda-feb-12thWadjda was the first full-length film made entirely in Saudi Arabia. Its female director, Haifaa Al-Mansour, brings us a telling story about Wadjda, a young girl whose great aspiration in life is to buy and ride a bike and race with her friend Abeer. To do this Wadjda has many obstacles to overcome, not least that it is considered improper for Saudi girls to ride bikes. Wadjda lives with her mother, who is preoccupied with the likelihood that her husband will take a second wife. When first released the film had no local distribution, but became the country’s entry for best foreign language Oscar. “ … Wadjda cleverly conceals a wealth of sociopolitical complexity beneath its deceptively simplistic central narrative” – Daniel Green, Cine Vue. (Cert PG)
Dir: Haifaa Al-Mansour 98 mins Saudi Arabia/Ger 2012

Programme Notes

Saudi Arabia/Germany 2012 98m Cert PG

The director of tonight’s film, Haifaa Al-Mansour, grew up in a relatively liberal Saudi family, one of twelve children whose father is the poet Abdul Rahmed Mansour. She attended the American University in Cairo, where she studied comparative literature. Prior to Wadjda she made a collaborative short film with some of her siblings, and the documentary Women Without Shadows.

She is married to an American cultural attaché, whom she met while posted to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and is reported to have driven to her wedding with her bridesmaid sisters in a golf buggy, Saudi women still not being permitted to drive cars.

Wadjda is a rebellious young girl who dreams of owning and riding her own bicycle, on a par with her friend Abdullah. The film very gently explores not only the restrictions upon the lives of women but also the strong adherence of many adults to traditional values. Subject to restrictions herself while making the film (viz, being forbidden to mix publicly with the mainly male members of her crew), Al-Mansour had to direct them through a loud speaker from inside a van.

“As the [Saudi] Kingdom’s first recognised female filmmaker, Al-Mansour has become one of those rarest things – a true pioneer.” Daniel Green, Cine-Vue

Wadjda – Waad Mohammad
Mother – Reem Abdullah
Father – Sulton Al Aisaf
Abdullah – Abdullrahman Al Gohami

Director – Haifaa Al-Mansour
Producers – Gerhard Meixner, Roman Paul
Screenplay – Haifaa Al-Mansour
Music – Max Richter
Cinematography – Lutz Reitemeier


“An amazing film”

“Beautiful film”

“Charming, strange but topical”

“Remarkable and brilliant. I loved the way Al-Mansour used such natural sounds as footsteps on a floor and the clicking of the bike wheels.”

“Terrific! An exploration of great depth of personal/religious conflict.”

“Beautifully structured film, full of important insights – but what a life for women!”

“A fascinating and touching insight into the lives of Saudi women behind the veil. Deceptively simple and yet highly complex.”

“Excellent. Sad, funny, thought-provoking. What an insight into women’s lives in Saudi.”

“A very moving and insightful film”

“Despite Saudi being such a joyless dump, it was heartening to see women finding some joy in spite of all the obstacles.”

“Much food for thought here! I just found this film fascinating in so many ways – loved it. More like this, please.”

“An interesting insight into the Koran and the Islamic world, especially the roles of women.”

“Another amazing child actress. Very heart-warming!”

“This is the fourth film we’ve seen about only girls in a family. Fascinating to see the differences and similarities.”

“Ending a bit too cheesy but otherwise not too bad”

“A bit too much Koran but good beginning and ending”

“Beyond my worst nightmares.”