Wadjda (2012)

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Released 23-Jul-2014

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Drama Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-UK trailer
Trailer-US trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 93:34
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Haifaa Al-Mansour
Entertainment One Starring Waad Mohammed
Reem Abdullah
Adbullrahman Algohani
Sultan Al Assaf
Case ?
RPI ? Music Max Richter

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Arabic Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Arabic Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) is a ten year old girl living with her mother (Reem Abdullah) and going to school in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Wadjda has an independent streak and her best friend is Abdulla (Adbullrahman Algohani), a young boy who lives across the road. Abdulla also has a bicycle, and more than anything Wadjda wants a bicycle herself to race Abdulla, although she is told repeatedly that “girls don’t ride”. As her mother will not buy her a bicycle, Wadjda sees her chance when the Religious Society at her school promotes a Koran contest with a cash first prize that will allow Wadjda to buy a bike. All she has to do is quickly gain an understanding of, and be able to recite, sections of the Koran.

     Wadjda is a simple story that skilfully and tactfully reveals in layers aspects of the position of women in Saudi Arabian society. At school the young girls are forbidden to be anywhere man can see them without their heads covered, and magazines, make-up and bracelets are banned; as the teacher states, they learn morals at the school. Another layer involves Wadjda’s mother. She has a job at a school three hours’ drive away, but in Saudi Arabia woman are not allowed to drive so a male driver has to be hired. But when the driver declines to take Wadjda’s mother any more it becomes a crisis that would cost her the job. As well, Wadjda’s father does not live with them but visits every so often. Wadjda’s parents are married, but her mother has been unable to produce a son and is about to be unceremoniously pushed aside for another bride.

     Wadjda is a first in a number of ways. It was the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and it was the first official Saudi submission ever to the Academy Awards; more astonishing is that Wadjda was made by first time Saudi female writer / director Hailfaa Al Mansour, whose previous film was the short documentary about the role of women in Saudi Arabia Women Without Shadows (2005). Al Mansour does also have a connection with Australia, attaining a Masters from Sydney University. The difficulties faced by Al Mansour in filming Wadjda in Saudi Arabia must have been daunting, including not being able to use a government school and not being able to directly interact with the male crew while filming in the streets of Riyadh; instead she had to sit in a van and communicate with the crew by walkie-talkie. As well, there could be no direct criticism of the state or the mosques.

     Despite these constrictions, by concentrating upon showing the reality of life for women in the society Wadjda gets the point across easily but without polemic. The key to the film is the relationship between Wadjda and her mother, and here Waad Mohammed as Wadjda is delightful and funny, with some wonderful facial expressions, while popular Saudi TV star Reem Abdullah in her first film role is excellent as the mother. Mention should also be made of Ahd in the difficult role as the teacher at the school who sees Wadjda as a younger version of herself but is required to impose strict morals and discipline within the school, discipline one feels she had rebelled against at some stage in her past.

     Wadjda is a simple and beautiful film that won awards in film festivals in Europe and the US. It questions the rules of the society gently and carefully and the ending is both sad and uplifting. Recommended.

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Transfer Quality


     Wadjda is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the original ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     Filmed with Arri Alexa cameras, the print is sharp and nicely detailed. Colours are natural but muted with yellows dominating; this is a desert country after all. Where brighter colours appear, such as the red dress, they are deep. Blacks and shadow detail are fine, skin tones are natural, brightness and contrast consistent.

     There was occasional motion blur and aliasing against vertical lines but no marks.

     The white English subtitles were burnt in. They were error free.

     The layer change at 52:31 created a slight pause at a scene change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is choice of two Arabic tracks: Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps or Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo at 256 Kbps.

     Dialogue was clear and centred. There was not a lot for the surrounds and rears to do; there was some music and ambience but that was all that was needed. I only noticed the sub-woofer during the fireworks at the end.

     The original music by is Max Richter (Waltz with Bashir (2008), Lore (2012)). It was used sparsely but was effective.

     There were no lip synchronisation issues.

     The audio track did what was required.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     Three trailers for Wadjda; the theatrical trailer (2:00), UK trailer (2:08) and US trailer (2:14).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     I am unable to find reviews of the DVD of Wadjda in other regions. The Region A US Blu-ray is a Blu-ray / DVD combo that includes as extras an audio commentary by Hailfaa Al Mansour, a making of (33:25) that is reported to be very good showing the difficulties faced during filming in Saudi Arabia, and a Directors Guild of America Q&A (38:20). There does not seem to be a separate release of the Region 1 DVD listed on Amazon.

     The Region B UK Blu-ray release includes the making of, but misses out on the commentary. However it adds Al Mansour’s short film Women Without Shadows (41:44). The Region 2 DVD does seem to include this short film.

     It would have been fascinating to learn more about how this film was made, so on that score if your system is capable the US release is the way to go.


     Wadjda features wonderful performances by Waad Mohammed and Reem Abdullah in the central relationship. It is a simple story that tactfully reveals aspects of the position of women in Saudi Arabian society. A gentle, beautiful film that is a delight.

     The video and audio are fine, trailers are the only extras and sadly we miss out on the good extras available elsewhere.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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