Saudi girl’s story exposes oppression of women

In the foreground of this outstanding movie, an ordinary girl from a middle-income family aspires to own a bicycle. In the background, woman’s oppression wraps its constricting coils around all the characters like an unconquerable anaconda. Wadjda’s mother desperately clings to a marriage that many American women wouldn’t have on a gold platter. Her stern teachers betray the contradictions in their rigid religious forbiddings. The other girls studying the Qur’an with Wadjda are threatened and humiliated for the slightest infraction such as painting their toenails!

The film audience cringes as Wadjda’s flowering pre-teen youth is hammered with humiliations and denials of even the slightest sign of human growth. Wadjda, supremely aware of her great crime (being a girl), has to figure out how to assert herself, support her mother and the other females, defy authority, and assert her right to be a deserving human being.

Everybody in the movie, and everything that happens, tells Wadjda to give up. Everything says that women’s oppression can’t be can’t be overcome whether in the extreme Saudi Arabian form or in the everyday discrimination we see at home.

Women’s oppression, we are told, will continue to one degree or another as long as we live in class societies. At the same time, victories are possible. And Wadjda may get her bicycle!


Directed by Haifaa Al Mansou

97 minutes