EXCLUSIVE: Soda Pictures strikes deal with The Match Factory for Haifaa Al-Mansour’s Venice buzzer.

Soda Pictures has picked up UK and Ireland rights to Haifaa Al-Mansour’s well-received debut Wadjda from The Match Factory.

The much-talked about drama, about a ten-year-old Saudi girl trying to own a bicycle (an act generally forbidden in the country), is the first film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and is directed by the country’s only female feature filmmaker.

The deal was negotiated between Eve Gabereau of Soda Pictures and Brigitte Suarez of The Match Factory, with a UK release planned for mid-2013.

A number of UK distributors were circling the film after its Venice bow, where it won the ICAE Award. Sony Pictures Classics acquired US rights in Toronto.

Al-Mansour’s film has been heralded not only for its artistic merit but for its comment on women’s role in Saudi society. Getting the film made was a considerable challenge, with the filmmaker forced to shoot some scenes from inside a van due to the country’s strict rules concerning women.

Razor Film produces, co-producers are Highlook Group and Rotana Studios in co-operation with Norddeutscher Rundfunk and Bayerischer Rundfunk. Backers include Filmforderungsanstalt, Mitteldeutsche Medienforderung, Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg and the Jordanian Royal Film Commission, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Dubai Film Market and Sundance Institute.

Soda releases Barbara on the September 28 and Sister on October 26.