The Unknown Saint (“Le Miracle du Saint Inconnu"), by Alaa Eddine Aljem
In his first feature film, The Unknown Saint, Alaa Eddine Aljem uses slapstick as a springboard to tackle the topic of faith in Morocco. He thus has viewers follow the trials and tribulations of a thief trying to recover the loot he hid 10 years earlier, now buried under a mausoleum built in the meantime.
A love of his origins
Born in Rabat, Morocco, Alaa Eddine Aljem studied cinema in Marrakech, then headed to Belgium to finish his studies in Brussels. He first worked in the film industry as script consultant, assistant director and then as a production manager.
Starting in 2008, he produced a series of short films about North African society. Around ten years later, his transition to feature films was met with success: The Unknown Saint was praised from the moment it was released in 2019 at the Cannes Festival.
A serious disappointment
After 10 years in prison, the thief of The Unknown Saint decides to dig up the loot he had buried in the desert. To his great surprise he discovers that, in the meantime, a pilgrimage site has been built above his secret stash.
Set on recovering his gold, the nameless criminal decides to settle in the neighbouring village and wait for the right moment to unearth his ill-gotten goods. Unfortunately for him, not only is the tomb honouring the "unknown saint" well-guarded, but it quickly catches the eye of several greedy figures from the village.
A microcosm of Morocco
“The location where the film takes place is at the crossroads of traditions and modernity - a situation which also applies to Morocco in general”, Alaa Eddine Aljem emphasises.
Filmed in Marrakesh in a small community which remains resistant to the metropolitan lifestyle, The Unknown Saint affectionately depicts the weight of tradition. With quirky humour which never veers into mockery, the film illustrates the conflicts in the village between spiritual concerns and the pragmatic hunt for profit.
A compelling story
Hailed as an original, modern fable painting an affectionate portrait of Morocco, The Unknown Saint was presented at Critics’ Week and enrolled in the Caméra d’Or competition at the 2019 Cannes Festival.
In 2016, the film Le Miracle du Saint Inconnu (“The Unknown Saint”) by Alaa Eddine Aljem received support from the Aide aux cinémas du monde fund. Find out more about the Aide aux cinémas du monde programme
Alaa Eddine Aljem also participated in the Fabrique Cinéma in 2016. The Institut français Fabrique Cinéma is a programme promoting cinema by young creators from the Global South on the international market, designed by the Institut français in close collaboration with the Cannes Festival. Learn more about the Fabrique Cinéma