Cinema: “The Cairo Conspiracy”, thriller and power struggles at the height of Sunni Islam

(AFP) – Who will succeed the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, a sort of Vatican of the Sunni Muslim world? In theaters on Wednesday, “The Cairo Conspiracy”, screenplay prize at Cannes last May, offers a breathless dive into the troubled waters of religion and politics in Egypt.

Directed by Tarik Saleh (“Confidential Cairo”), the film takes place after the death of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, an authority who is a reference for millions of believers.

Who will succeed him? Religious, promising Muslim Brotherhood of political Islam, state security services led by Marshal Al-Sissi, in competition with the spiritual power of the imams… The appointment of a successor is a game of chess in which each wants to have a say, and where all shots are allowed.

Like a pawn in the middle of this chessboard, finds himself a modest son of a fisherman who has just arrived at university, Adam. Everything goes wrong when a student, forced to play undercover agents for the very dreaded state security, is murdered in the university.

To take over, a state security officer, Ibrahim, forces Adam to work in a submarine in his turn for the police. Who is manipulating whom?

Tarik Saleh plays for 02:05 between false leads and pretenses, revisiting the classics of thrillers in a rarely filmed setting, “American-style” cafes in Cairo, where police and infiltrators have an appointment over a latte, spans of the religious establishment.

Himself born in Stockholm, of a Swedish mother and an Egyptian father, Tarik Saleh who says he is “undesirable” in Egypt since his previous film, and has not been able to shoot in the prestigious university with hundreds of thousands of students, withdrawing into the splendid setting of the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul.

After his previous thriller, the highly acclaimed “Le Caire Confidential” (2017, Grand Jury Prize at Sundance), which described a violent and corrupt police regime, the director changes focus, focusing more on the struggles between political and spiritual power. , but retains its uncompromising view of Egypt.

The idea for the film came to him while rereading “The name of the rose”, the classic by Umberto Eco, which takes place in an abbey.

In the casting, he finds his favorite actor, the Lebanese living in Sweden Fares Fares, in the role of the police officer. And in the main role, that of young Adam, Tawfeek Barhom, born in Israel, and who has just finished the next film by Terrence Malick on the life of Christ.


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