ByBarrett Phelan, writer at
I am an actor, magician, improviser, and cinephile in Austin, Texas.
Barrett Phelan

"Wadjda" is a triumphant film that addresses all the complex aspects of life as a pre-teen girl growing up in Saudi Arabia, and in so doing, exposes us to Middle Eastern culture in a way that is clear and respectful, yet alarming. The young actor, Waad Mohammed, pictured above, is our hero. In a realm where a woman's voice is her "nakedness" and must be hidden behind locked doors, Wadjda is a blaring cannon of wit, charm, and swagger. She never backs down from her goal to break cultural standards and buy a cool bicycle from the local store.

The way she goes about getting the bike is where we meet the Saudi universe and its complex cast of characters. There is the conservative, pious, and rather bitchy teacher. There are anonymous and powerful Saudi men constantly lurking in the background threatening punishment. There is Allah presiding over it all, constantly ready to banish the wicked to a hell beyond their imagination.

None of this phases our hero. She is clever, wise, and funny, and had me on the edge of my seat the entire film. I loved this film, and I actually cried tears of joy. Highly recommended!


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