The Saudi based movie Wadjda stars a spirited young Saudi girl, Wadjda, whose dream is to one day own a bicycle. The only problem is that she lives in Saudi Arabia where women’s freedoms are severely limited. Frustrated by this and the lack of support from her female role models, she devises a plan to get the money to buy the bike.
This is the first movie both written and directed by a Saudi female and was the Saudis pick as their entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards even though it was not widely shown in Saudi Arabia. But it’s easy to see why; the story is simple but universal, has a terrific arc and the lead actress plays her part with confidence, humor, grace and stunning maturity. But all that aside, lets focus on the bike.
Almost all kids all over the world would love to own and ride a bike. This is particularly true for Wadjda because in her country culture dictates a woman’s ability to move around freely and, more matter-of-factly, to move herself long distances via bike or car is practically impossible. And so, for Wadjda, who sees herself in her society as more of an “equal” to men, the bicycle is a symbol of gaining that equality.
But, truly and simply, Wadjda wants a bike so she can race her best friend, a neighborhood boy. It looks fun to her. She wants to keep up with the boys. In a very telling scene, Wadjda, after having her best friend temporarily steal her shaw, watches as he joins a group of his bicycle riding male friends who pedal away to their next adventure. There is a longing in that look she gives and it’s an understanding that a bicycle not only can take you places but it can inspire you with an almost endless supply of choices, i.e. the medium is the message, the bicycle is freedom, the bicycle is how Wadjda can empower herself and gain control over her life.