Boy from Heaven (Walad Min Al Janna)
Adam comes from a small fishing village. When he is accepted to the prestigious Al-Azhar University for Islamic sciences in Egypt’s capital, he receives the nickname “sardine”. He is a shy student, afraid to assert himself among his peers, but he is observant and sharp. Not long after his arrival, the school’s grand imam passes away. The search to find a successor sets a web of intrigue into motion, and Adam finds himself caught in it as he witnesses the murder of a fellow student.
The layers with which Palestinian actor Tawfeek Barhom magnificently portrays Adam sneak up on the viewer almost unexpectedly; his body language speaks louder than anything his character might say. Even as his character is forced to swiftly adapt to different circumstances, the meek and inconspicuous demeanour stays, but it is turned into an asset when needed.
Fares Fares, who has appeared in most of the director’s previous work, co-stars in Boy from Heaven as Ibrahim, a state security officer who tries to get Adam to become their spy.
Written and directed by Tarik Saleh, the predominantly Swedish production is a white-knuckle thriller about the power struggle between religious and political forces. Instead of the Catholic Church that previously reigned in this particular niche, be it through adaptations of Dan Brown’s novels or Jean-Christophe Grangé’s, this time it is the Muslim world in the spotlight.
Despite winning the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, the filmmaker’s previous feature The Nile Hilton Incident did not see distribution in the country it was set in, because Egyptian authorities didn’t like the way they were portrayed. Even as it stands a good chance of taking home one of Cannes’s competition awards, Boy from Heaven may suffer a similar fate. But hopefully any attempt to silence it will unleash the very discussion this film aims for.
Boy from Heaven does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch a clip from Boy from Heaven (Walad Min Al Janna) here: