When I’m not on a bike riding around and exploring I enjoy watching movies about riding around and exploring. There are lists and lists of movies about bikes. I have seen many of the ones on these assorted lists. Triplets of Belleville was a longtime favorite and it’s still in my top five, along with Breaking Away. I also really love the bike scenes in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, plus Quicksilver, E.T. and PeeWee’s Big Adventure. Yes, I realize there are more than five noted, but it’s my blog. Recently though, I’ve had to do some serious soul searching about my list. I found a movie I missed from a few years back. This gem was released in 2012. I found it on iTunes and remember hearing about it, but for whatever reason I missed out. The movie, Wadjda is my new favorite of all time — that has something to do with a bike. Actually, no, I take that back. Wadjda is brilliant and the film touched me deeply for reasons I still can’t explain. It’s not just about the bike, it’s about the freedom and opportunities it represents.
You might want to stop reading now and go watch the film, then come back and finish this post. Wadjda has become my new obsession. When we were about to rent it, I just opted to buy it instead. Again, bike movies mean exploring too and we’ve been experience more than normal amounts of rainfall which means I want to curl up on the coach and watch movies.
In 1982 I traveled with my parents to Saudi Arabia. My dad, a college professor, was invited by a student. We visited Riyadh, Taif and Jeddah. It was 10 days of amazing! It was hot outside and freezing inside. The coffee and tea were sweet and the cakes and pastries looked phenomenal but tasted like sand. My favorite days were in Taif. It’s at a higher elevation and it wasn’t as hot. I was young and brash. I asked loads of questions which were laced with disrespect about how badly women were treated. I was a youngster and full of opinions. Why can’t women drive? Why would you take a second or third wife? Why were the women relegated to the kitchen when we were eating in the dining area? Our host’s wife didn’t drive and wasn’t permitted to continue her education. Tradition? That’s the party line. Don’t even get me started on voting. Of course I recall needing to cover my head. But that was 1982. Oh, wait—women did vote for the first time in 2015.
Wadjda is about a girl who wants a bike. She’s spunky, smart and she wants to race her friend Abdullah. She makes and sells these bracelets and she sings with her mom and goes to school. She’s questioning some aspects of her life and there are things about the adults around her that are confusing. Her parents are in love, yet, the mother has not produced a male heir. Tension. But again, Wadjda wants this bike. We can all relate to that, right? She decides to enter a contest which if she wins will provide her with the money needed to buy the bike, but, but, but. But she’s a girl. Girls aren’t supposed to ride a bike, let alone want a bike. It might compromise her virginity. Plus, she’s already been rather cheeky with the principal of her school and all of this complicates the story. But you love Wadjda because she will find a way. She will study and she will persevere. Right? See I didn’t spoil the plot.
She reminds me of … the best of myself, especially at that age. I love this kid. Abdullah is also a great friend. The mom is amazing. Even the dad who loves his Wadjda is amazing, but he’s stuck in a traditional system that means he will be taking another wife despite his love for Wadjda’s drop-dead gorgeous mom.
Wadjda is an exceptional film. I loved every frame and I think you will too. The bike is freedom and there are borders that even it will have a hard time crossing. I will stifle the urge to type in all capital letters, bolded and with underlining, that this is a movie you have got to see and you have to tell your friends to see it.
One more thing: After you watch the film you will want to know more about the director Haifaa Al Mansour, read this interview.
Thank you Haifaa for this story. Thank you for Wadjda.
Happy riding and watching!
Be safe out there.