Cannes Film Festival 2022: for director Tarik Saleh, “the West does not understand anything about Islam”

Almost five years after the release of “Confidential Cairo”, the 50-year-old Swedish filmmaker, born to an Egyptian father, is back with a politico-religious thriller which denounces the authoritarian excesses of Marshal al-Sissi’s power and offers a dive into the world of Sunni Islam.

A dive that is reminiscent of “The name of the rose”, a novel then a successful film taking place in an abbey in the Middle Ages.

Mere coincidence? “I was rereading this book when I asked myself: + What if I told a story like this but in a Muslim context? +”, he recalls to AFP.

If the film has no educational aim, it documents with precision the doctrines, which are opposed, of this majority current of Islam. And offers viewers a glimpse, from the inside, of a little-known world.

“I really think that the West understands nothing about Islam,” insists the man who explains that he has a “personal” relationship to this religion.


Just like “Le Caire confidential”, which had been shot in Morocco, “Boy from Heaven” could not be shot in Egypt, but in Turkey.

“I haven’t been back to Egypt since 2015, when we were filming + Cairo confidential + when the Egyptian security services ordered us to leave the country. Since then, I have been an undesirable person, who, if he sets foot on the Egyptian soil will no doubt be arrested,” he said.

Fiction and not documentary, the film also has a strong autobiographical scope: “Like the main character, my grandfather is from a small fishing village and studied at al-Azhar University” (main institution in the world Sunni, editor’s note)”.

“In a way, he continues, this film is a love letter to Egypt and a tribute to my grandparents.”

The one who discovered his father’s country at the age of 10 explains that he holds a special place in his life: “I love the Egyptians, their language… When I hear it, it’s like music for me. Even if my level of Arabic is catastrophic!”, he quips.

Moreover, anchoring one’s films in this country is a way of “reclaiming” it.

However, Tarik Saleh has not always been a director. He started his career as a street artist, then turned to documentaries. In 2005, the documentary he produced on the Guantanamo military prison won awards in the United States and Europe.

“I hate being a director,” he said seriously when AFP asked him about his vocation as a filmmaker. “I come from the world of art and painting and I like to be alone. I hate being with 200 people on a film set. Even if I like cinema, it’s always very painful for me” .

And to confide that he sees himself more as “a writer”. Like a Harlan Coben or a John Grisham, two masters of crime fiction, the filmmaker nourishes each of his storylines with never-ending plots. “Every time I am told to simplify because otherwise no one will be able to follow”.

“In addition to being my best friend, for me, he is an incredible director and screenwriter,” told AFP his favorite actor, Fares Fares.

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Cannes Film Festival 2022: for director Tarik Saleh, “the West does not understand anything about Islam”