First Movie Filmed in Saudi Arabia By a Female Director Looks Great

Here's the trailer for the first feature-length film ever shot in Saudi Arabia by a female filmmaker, entitled Wadjda. It's the story of a 10 year old girl named, yes, Wadjda, living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She's described as "sarcastic, funny and streetwise," all reasons that she decides to compete in a Koran memorization competition at her school to win money to buy a bicycle.


To make the movie, the filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour dealt with the kind of obstacles that would make an entertaining movie itself: because men and women are not allowed to interact in public in Saudi Arabia, she says “It was a major obstacle to go out in the street and talk to my actors."

Al-Mansour was previously a host for a show on Saudi Arabian television that, translated to English is called More Than a Woman. She eventually moved into short films and in an interview with Al Jazeera, explained that she feels she actually has an advantage over men trying to making movies in the Middle East:

"I really didn't want people to say 'Because she's a woman, she's only talking about woman's issues.' But when I did my documentary and it was about women, I was amazed about how it touched lots of women...It's like an area that people don't have a chance to get into, especially in Saudi Arabia. It's difficult for a male filmmaker to break into this secluded world and have the same opportunities I had."

Wadjda, which has opened at festivals like Cannes, the Venice Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival and won numerous awards, will be released in the United States later this year. Recall that it was only a few months ago that riding a bicycle was even allowed for women in Saudi Arabia, and that it's a country in where few will probably even get the opportunity to see this movie, since there are few movie theaters.


Dodai Stewart