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With the limitations placed upon her, she soon loses her driver due to tardiness, resulting in being trapped at home for a while, until Wadjda’s childhood friend secures the driver again. Wadjda strives with determination to buy her bicycle by entering into her school’s Koran recitation competition. As she studies, her mother’s continual denial of Wadjda’s right to own a bicycle is heavily placed upon her. Wadjda’s mother chides, “You won’t have children if you ride a bike, poignantly revealing her own insecurity.” Wadjda remains steadfast, and brokers a deal with her neighborhood friend to give her riding lessons in exchange for access to her roof, where he needs to hang lights for his uncle’s upcoming election, in which women, of course, are not allowed to participate or vote. The day of the competition arrives, and Wadjda wins! With the prize money just inches from her fingertips, she tells Ms. Hussa she plans to buy a bicycle with her reward, only to be left with bitter disappointment when Ms. Hussa donates the prize money to Palestine instead. Heartbroken, Wadjda returns home to an empty house, with her mother missing for hours. When she awakens from a nap, she finds her mother on their rooftop watching a wedding celebration from afar.

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Her mother tells her it is the wedding of her father, who ultimately took a second wife. As Wadjda and her mother are morally defeated, their despair resonates with the viewer; a mother and daughter fighting against their cultural manacles, deflated and hopeless. What deeper yearning does a woman have than loyalty and love from her husband? What deeper desire does a little girl have than the freedom to ride a bicycle? Slowly, Wadjda’s mother crosses the roof to present the bicycle that she bought for Wadjda earlier that day, using the money she had intended to spend on a dress for her relative’s wedding. With her husband now marrying another, her heart is shattered, and this is her attempt to offer her daughter the happiness that she does not have. A parent’s heart is always hopeful for a better life for her children than she had, and this was the first step in securing that hope. This film brilliantly tied together several topics currently discussed among observers or analysts of Saudi Arabia. The political and social pressures in the Kingdom are illuminated with the film’s portrayal of women’s struggle for the right to vote and drive, and to avoid polygamy. With Wadjda’s laughing face lighting up the screen as she finally races around on her shiny new bicycle, the film concludes on an uplifting note, despite the underlying despair.

Palate First Edition  
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