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Wadjda rides to success at US box office - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A bicycle is seen on the red carpet during the premiere screening of Wadjda during the 69th Venice Film Festival in Venice on Aug 31, 2012. (Reuters)

A bicycle is seen on the red carpet during the premiere screening of Wadjda during the 69th Venice Film Festival in Venice on Aug 31, 2012. (Reuters)

London, Asharq Al-AwsatWadjda has taken an unprecedented step for Saudi, and Arab Gulf, film-making, receiving critical acclaim from across the world. However Haifa Al-Mansour’s film has taken on even more historic dimensions, being selected as Saudi Arabia’s official nomination for the 2014 Best Foreign Film Oscar. This is the first time that Saudi Arabia has selected a movie to compete in the Academy Awards.

Wadjda has been chosen as Saudi Arabia’s official entry to the 2014 Best Foreign Film Oscar by Sultan Al-Bazie, Director of the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts (SASCA). The Saudi film’s nomination comes in line with the Academy’s rules which define a foreign language film as a features-length motion picture produced outside the USA with a predominantly non-English dialogue track. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Hollywood officially accepted Saudi Arabia’s nomination of Wadjda, which will compete with over 70 foreign language films from other countries.

“We very proud of this film, which is an authentic representation of our country and our culture and are delighted that the themes and the story of this film has connected with an audience far beyond our borders” said Sultan Al-Bazie.

However, Wadjda and Haifa Al-Mansour’s success go beyond this historic Oscar nomination, with reports that the film grossed more than USD 40,000 in three cinemas in its first week of release in the US. The Hollywood Reporter described the film’s first week gross as being “arguably the best showing of the weekend among new limited releases,” under the headline “Saudi Arabian Drama ‘Wadjda’ Shines.”

Wadjda’s domestic premiere in the US grossed USD 13,000, the highest grossing figure for an independent film in recent times. The film was released by Sony Pictures Classics in three cinemas in New York and Los Angeles last week, with an expanded release across the including Chicago, Bethesda, Salt Lake City Charlotte, Milwaukee, Jacksonville, Tacoma, and elsewhere later this year.

Wadjda revolves around the story of a ten-year old girl who dreams of having her own bicycle. The film has received unexpected critical acclaim in the US and Europe, where it has also enjoyed financial success. In the United Kingdom, where the film remains in theaters, Wadjda grossed USD 559,000. In Italy, revenues reached USD 493,466, while in Spain the film grossed USD 385,000, according to statistics released by Box Office Mojo.