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  • Wadjda
  • وجدة
Wadjda (film).jpg
Directed byHaifaa al-Mansour
Produced by
  • Gerhard Meixner
  • Roman Paul
Screenplay byHaifaa al-Mansour
Music byMax Richter
CinematographyLutz Reitemeier (de)
Edited byAndreas Wodraschke
Distributed byKoch Media (Germany, all media)
Release dates
Running time98 minutes
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  • Wadjda
  • وجدة
Wadjda (film).jpg
Directed byHaifaa al-Mansour
Produced by
  • Gerhard Meixner
  • Roman Paul
Screenplay byHaifaa al-Mansour
Music byMax Richter
CinematographyLutz Reitemeier (de)
Edited byAndreas Wodraschke
Distributed byKoch Media (Germany, all media)
Release dates
Running time98 minutes

Wadjda (Arabic: وجدة‎) is a 2012 Saudi Arabian–German film, written and directed by Haifaa al-Mansour. It was the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia[1][2][3][4] and the first feature-length film made by a female Saudi director.[5][6] It won numerous awards at film festivals around the world. The film was selected as the Saudi Arabian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards - the first time the country made a submission for the Oscars[7] - but it was not nominated.[8][9][10] It successfully earned a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the 2014 BAFTA Awards.


Wadjda, an 11-year-old Saudi girl living in the capital Riyadh, dreams of owning a green bicycle that she passes in a store every day on her way to school. She wants to race against her friend Abdullah, a boy from the neighbourhood, but riding bikes is frowned upon for girls and Wadjda's mother refuses to buy one for her daughter. She is distracted by trying to convince her husband not to take a second wife, as Wadjda tries to find the money herself by selling mixtapes, hand-braiding bracelets for classmates, acting as a go-between for a teacher, and through other forbidden activities in the school yard.

After running afoul of the strict headmistress, Wadjda decides to participate in a Qur'an recital competition, the SR1,000 cash prize (equivalent of about US$270[11]) of which would allow her to pay for the bike. Her efforts at memorising the verses impress her teacher, but when Wadjda wins the competition, she shocks the staff by announcing her intention to buy a bicycle with the prize money.[6][12][13][14] She is told that the money will instead be donated to Palestine on her behalf.

Wadjda returns home to find that her father has taken a second wife, and that her mother has bought the green bicycle from the toy store. Wadjda wins her race against Abdullah.



According to the director Haifaa al-Mansour, it took five years to make Wadjda. She spent most of the time trying to find financial backing and getting filming permission, since she insisted on filming in Saudi Arabia for reasons of authenticity. She received backing from Rotana, the film production company of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. However, she very much wanted to find a foreign co-producer because "in Saudi there are no movie theatres, there is no film industry to speak of and, therefore, little money for investment".[12] After her selection for a Sundance Institute writer's lab in Jordan, al-Mansour got in touch with the German production company Razor Film, which had previously produced films with Middle-Eastern topics (Paradise Now and Waltz with Bashir).[12] The production involved co-operation with two German public TV broadcasters, Norddeutscher Rundfunk and Bayerischer Rundfunk.[14] Additional funding came from Filmförderungsanstalt (FFA, Berlin); Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg GmbH (MBB, Potsdam); Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung GmbH (MDM, Leipzig) and Filmfonds Babelsberg (ILB, Potsdam-Babelsberg).[14]

Al-Mansour's screenplay was influenced by neorealist cinema like Vittorio de Sica's Bicycle Thieves, Jafar Panahi's Offside or Rosetta. The final scene recalls the final scene of François Truffaut's The 400 Blows. Al-Mansour says that the original version of her screenplay was much bleaker than the finished product: "I decided I didn't want the film to carry a slogan and scream, but just to create a story where people can laugh and cry a little."[12] Al-Mansour based the character of Wadjda on one of her nieces and also on her own experiences when growing up.[12] The main themes of the story are freedom, as represented by the bicycle, and the fear of emotional abandonment, as Wadjda's father wants to take a second wife who will provide him with a son.[12]

Wadjda was filmed on the streets of Riyadh, which often made it necessary for the director to work from the back of a van, as she could not publicly mix with the men in the crew. Often, she could only communicate via walkie-talkie and had to watch the actors on a monitor. This made it difficult to direct: "It made me realise the need to rehearse and to develop an understanding for each scene before we shot it."[12]

Waad Mohammed, who plays Wadjda, was a first-time actress.[12]


Wadjda received critical acclaim. The film-critics aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reported 99% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 68 reviews, with an average score of 8.2/10. The critical consensus is: "Transgressive in the best possible way, Wadjda presents a startlingly assured new voice from a corner of the globe where cinema has been all but silenced."[15] Metacritic, which assigns a standardized score out of 100, rated the film 81 based on 23 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[16]


The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August 2012. It was released in Germany by Koch Media in 2013. Other distributors are: Pretty Pictures (France, theatrical), Sony Pictures Classics (USA, theatrical), Wild Bunch Benelux (Netherlands, theatrical), The Match Factory (Non-USA, all media) and Soda Pictures (UK, all media). It has been shown at several film festivals:

CountryRelease DateFilm Festival or full releaseNote
Italy31 August 2012[17]Venice Film Festival
USA15 September 2012[17]Telluride Film Festival
Poland28 November 2012[17]Filmy Swiata ale kino+ Festival
Iceland29 November 2012[17]Fully
Italy6 December 2012[17]Fully
Netherlands26 January 2013[17]International Film Festival Rotterdam
Sweden30 January 2013[17]Goteborg International Film Festival
Belgium6 February 2013[17]Fully
France6 February 2013[17]Fully
Serbia23 February 2013[17]Belgrade Film Festival
Sweden8 March 2013[17]Fully
Netherlands16 May 2013[17]Fully
Spain28 June 2013[17]Fully
UK19 July 2013[12]Fully
Germany25 July 2013Fünf-Seen-Filmfestival[18]
Germany15 August 2013[17]Fully

Other screenings include as the opening film of the 6th Gulf Film Festival in Dubai (11–17 April) and at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York (21/25 April).[12] The film is scheduled to be released on DVD in February 2014.[19]


AwardDate of ceremonyCategoryRecipients and nomineesResult
Asia Pacific Screen Awards[20]12 December 2013Best Children's Feature FilmNominated
Alliance of Women Film Journalists[21]19 December 2013Best Non-English Language FilmNominated
This Year's Outstanding Achievement By a Woman in the Film IndustryHaaifa Al-Mansour for challenging the limitations placed on women within her culture.[21]Won
British Film Institute20 October 2012Sutherland TrophyHaifaa Al-MansourNominated
Dubai International Film Festival[5]18 December 2012Muhr Arab AwardWaad Mohammed (Best Actress – Feature)
Roman Paul (Best Film – Feature)
Gerhard Meixner (Best Film - Feature)
Fribourg International Film Festival23 March 2013Grand PrixHaifaa Al-MansourNominated
International Film Festival1 June 2013Südwind-FilmpreisHaifaa Al-MansourWon
Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Awards[22][23]16 February 2014Best Sound Editing: Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue & ADR in a Foreign Feature FilmSebastian SchmidtNominated
National Board of Review4 December 2013NBR Freedom of ExpressionHaifaa Al-MansourWon
Palm Springs International Film Festival13 January 2014Directors to WatchHaifaa Al-MansourWon
Rotterdam International Film Festival2 February 2013Dioraphte AwardHaifaa Al-MansourWon
San Francisco Film Critics Circle[24]15 December 2013Best Foreign Language FilmNominated
Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival27 November 2012Don Quixote AwardHaifaa Al-MansourSpecial Mention
Netpac AwardSpecial Mention
Grand PrizeNominated
Vancouver International Film Festival[25]12 October 2013Most Popular International First Feature AwardHaifaa Al-MansourWon
Venice Film Festival8 September 2012CinemAvvenire AwardHaifaa Al-Mansour (Best Film—Il cerchio non è rotondo Award)
C.I.C.A.E. AwardHaifaa Al-Mansour
Interfilm Award
British Academy Film Awards16 February 2014Best Foreign FilmHaifaa Al-Mansour, Gerhard Meixner, Roman PaulNominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cannes 2012: Saudi Arabia's First Female Director Brings 'Wadjda' to Fest". The Hollywood Reporter. 15 May 2012. Retrieved 8 September 2012. 
  2. ^ "Saudi's first female director seeks to break gender taboos". Times. Retrieved 8 September 2012. 
  3. ^ Macnab, Geoffrey (15 May 2012). "Al Mansour reveals struggles of directing Wadjda". Screen Daily. Retrieved 8 September 2012. 
  4. ^ "First film shot in Saudi to debut at Cannes". Arabian Business. Retrieved 8 September 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Dubai International Film Festival". Dubaifilmfest.com. Retrieved 2013-08-21. 
  6. ^ a b "Wadjda". Euronews. 2013-02-07. Retrieved 2013-08-21. 
  7. ^ "Oscars: Saudi Arabia Nominates 'Wadjda' for Foreign Language Category". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  8. ^ "Oscars: Saudi Arabia Taps ‘Wadjda’ As First Foreign-Language Entry". Variety. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  9. ^ "'Wadjda' is Saudi Arabia's first nominee for foreign-language Oscar". LA Times. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  10. ^ "Saudi Arabia submits first film for Oscars with 'Wadjda'". Gulf News. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  11. ^ "1 Saudi Riyal equals 0.27 US Dollar". Google.com. Retrieved 2014-03-28. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Grey, Tobias (30–31 March 2013), "The undercover director", Financial Times: 14 
  13. ^ "Wadjda". Razor Film. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c d "Filmportal: Wadjda". Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  15. ^ "Wadjda - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  16. ^ "Wadjda Reviews - Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n IMDB:Wadjda (2012)
  18. ^ "Fünf-Seen-Filmfestival" (in German). Fsff.de. Retrieved 2013-08-21. 
  19. ^ Fielding-Smith, Abigail (14–15 December 2013), "The film director blazing a trail for Saudi women", Financial Times: 21 
  20. ^ "Winners & Nominees 2013". asiapacificscreenacademy.com. Retrieved 2013-12-19. 
  21. ^ a b "2013 EDA Award Nominess". Alliance of Women Film Journalists. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  22. ^ Walsh, Jason (15 January 2014). "Sound Editors Announce 2013 Golden Reel Nominees". Variety. Retrieved 15 January 2014. 
  23. ^ "'Gravity' and '12 Years a Slave' lead MPSE Golden Reel Awards nominations". HitFix. Retrieved 15 January 2014. 
  24. ^ Stone, Sasha (13 December 2013). "San Francisco Film Critics Nominations". Awards Daily. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  25. ^ "Final Award Winners Announced & Closing Remarks". Vancouver International Film Festival. 12 October 2013. Retrieved 1 March 2014. 

External links[edit]