Wadjda Movie Poster Image

Wadjda

Beautiful, nuanced tale of an independent Saudi girl.
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 98 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie encourages independence and equal rights for girls. Wadjda's story stresses the importance of friendship between boys and girls and also of having goals and dreams. Integrity, courage, and perseverance are all major themes.

Positive role models

Wadjda is a persistent, determined young girl who decides to learn how to ride a bicycle, even though it's not generally accepted for girls to ride bikes. She also has her own sense of style and asserts her independence and self confidence in various ways, from the reason why she enters the Quran memorization contest to how she sells bracelets to save up for something she wants to buy. On the other hand, she does lie to her principal -- though it's to save a classmate from severe punishment.

Violence

Wadjda falls off her bike. Some sad moments.

Sex

Wadjda's mother works hard to look her best for her husband and to please him. A religion teacher explains that when girls have their period, they're not allowed to touch or hold the Quran. A teen student's reputation is ruined when it's clear that she rode in a car with a man who wasn't her father or brother. A construction worker whistles at Wadjda and asks her to let him "touch those little apples."

Language

One use of "damn" (in subtitles).

Consumerism

Some car companies logos/brands seen, like Chevy Suburban, Mercedes, etc. Wadjda wears Converse-like sneakers, but the logo isn't prominently visible.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Wadjda's mother smoke cigarettes more and more as the movie progresses.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Wadjda is the first Saudi Arabian movie to be directed by a woman, and it centers on a feisty, independent girl who wants to ride a bicycle, wear sneakers, and be able to compete against her best friend -- a boy in the neighborhood. The movie explores the various religious traditions and laws that many Muslim girls and women have to follow, especially when it comes to dress and submitting to men in authority. There are a few sad moments, references to girls having their period, and one incident in which a male construction worker says something lewd to a young girl, but otherwise there's no violence or strong language (except for one "damn"). An adult smokes cigarettes more and more as the movie progresses. Also, the movie is subtitled rather than dubbed, but older kids and tweens should be able to keep up with the easy-to-follow story.

What's the story?

WADJDA follows the titular character (Waad Mohammed), a feisty 11-year-old Saudi Arabian girl who marches to the beat of her own drum. She wears black Converse sneakers, makes friendship bracelets that she sells to classmates, and loves to compete against her (male) best friend, Abdullah (Abdullrahman Al Gohani). When she sees him riding a bicycle, Wadjda decides that she, too, needs a bike, even though it's considered unacceptable for girls to ride. Wadjda's parents refuse to indulge her, so the entrepreneurial girl joins her school's religion club to compete in a Quran memorization competition that awards the winner just enough to purchase the bike.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

The first Saudi Arabian-produced film ever to be directed by a woman, Haifaa Al-Mansour, is a triumph of nuance and substance. Enterprising young Wadjda -- with her love of Western radio, quirky Chucks with purple laces, and singular decision to beat Abdullah in a bike race -- is a study in everyday female empowerment. When her mother informs her that her father's family tree can never include her, because it only features men's names, she boldly writes "Wadjda" on a sticky note and tacks it on to the painting. The moment is both touching and a loaded statement -- her father's "glorious" legacy will never claim her.

Wadjda knows what her future holds. She must marry (one of her more pious classmates is already a wife) and bear her husband's sons -- something that her own beautiful mother was unable to do. But that's another story, because Wadjda is about independent thinking, overcoming odds, and unconditional friendship. Abdullah and Wadjda don't create a fictional world like Terabithia, but in their own way, they talk and play and compete like equals -- something just as secret and magical (and dangerous), given their homeland.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the importance of using media to explore other cultures and what growing up in other places is like. What does Wadjda teach us about Saudi Arabia?

  • Do you think it's obvious that the movie was directed by a woman? What do you think she's trying to say about Saudi society?

  • Does this movie make you want to see more foreign films? Why or why not?

  • How do the characters in Wadjda demonstrate integrity, courage, and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 13, 2013
DVD/Streaming release date:February 11, 2014
Cast:Ahd, Reem Abdullah, Waad Mohammed
Director:Haifaa Al-Mansour
Studio:Sony Pictures Classics
Genre:Drama
Topics:Friendship, Great girl role models
Character strengths:Courage, Integrity, Perseverance
Run time:98 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements, brief mild language and smoking

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Educator and Parent of a 11 and 11 year old Written byDtownmom October 25, 2013

Wonderful and important film.

Wonderful film, my 11yo twin girls loved it. It was a very interesting insight into the lives of Saudi women and girls. I felt it was uplifting, that girls of spunk exist in all cultures. However one of my daughters mentioned she thought it was a bit depressing because of the lack of freedoms. For those of you worried about subtitles, for us it as not an issue. The girls felt that there wasn't that much to read - a lot was told visually. However, they are very good readers. I was glad our local art house ran it. Wonderful and important film. Only issues - besides what is mentioned in the review. Rumors go around about a "thief" who is not a thief but a lover visiting the female principal in the school at night.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Teen, 13 years old Written bypurplecowboy October 26, 2013

Awesome!

This was an amazing film and a GREAT story! I loved it.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 2, 4, and 8 year old Written byshimmer1 June 23, 2014

A Wonderful Glimpse at Saudi Arabia

This was a fantastic movie! It gave me as an American a look into what life is like in Saudi Arabia for girls and women. It was a great teaching took for my family as well. Learning about other cultures as well as evaluating and appreciating what we have here. Great film!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models