Company gets North American rights to Haifaa Al Mansour's pic

Sony Pictures Classics has acquired North American rights to Haifaa Al Mansour’s “Wadjda” from Razor Films for a 2013 release.

“Wadjda,” produced by Roman Paul and Gerhard Meixner, premiered at the Venice Film Festival and debuted in North America at the Telluride Film Festival.

Film centers on the title character, a 10-year-old girl who challenges Saudi traditions in a determined quest to buy a bicycle. When stymied, she sees one last chance in her school’s Koran recitation competition and the large cash prize for first place.

The filmmaker noted in the announcement that she comes from a small town in Saudi Arabia, a country where showing movies in public is illegal.

“To write and direct the first film ever to be shot inside Saudi Arabia, with one of the leading companies in Europe, Razor Films, was beyond my wildest dreams,” she said. “To premiere my film at the Venice Film Festival was even more incredible, and now to have Sony Classics bring the film to North America, the place from where I first saw the power and emotional possibilities of film, is beyond anything I ever could have imagined.”

In Variety’s review at Venice, Jay Weissberg praised the film and Waad Mohammed’s performance in the lead role.

“Once the novelty is processed, critics and the public will likely agree that the pic transcends mere surprise value and delivers a winning, handsomely crafted story with a charismatic lead guaranteed to charm international auds,” Weissberg wrote. “Resembling kid-centered Iranian pics that tackle sticky topics via pint-sized protags, ‘Wadjda’ uses a spunky girl to explore women’s limitations within Arabian society.”

Sony Classics negotiated the deal with Rena Ronson of UTA Independent Film Group. The Match Factory is handling foreign sales.

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