Sweden, France, Finland


Adam, the son of a fisherman, is offered the ultimate privilege to study at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the epicenter of power of Sunni Islam. Shortly after his arrival in Cairo, the university’s highest ranking religious leader, the Grand Imam, suddenly dies and Adam soon becomes a pawn in a ruthless power struggle between Egypt’s religious and political elites.

Director's Statement

The film is about the past and the future colliding, and the people that get crushed in between. My grandfather was a student at Al-Azhar, he was one of the first from his village to get a formal education. He told me that the Sheikh Al-Azhar said - after visiting Paris for the first time - “I went to France and I saw Islam without Muslims; I came back to Egypt to see Muslims without Islam.” This statement would be impossible for him to make today. As an artist, I see my job to be truthful in my work, no matter what the consequences are. I am in this unique place that has doors into several worlds. I could open a door and sit with my uncle in Egypt and talk about what God thinks about masturbation, then step into another room to see my grandmother jump into a lake in the Swedish archipelago, naked. The most interesting thing to me is not to see how misinformed people are about other cultures, but how totally self-deceptive we are about our own culture. I see the similarities rather than the differences. I am interested in taking the spectator with me into a Pandora’s box. A world within a world that has never been visited by a camera. The film is about the conflict of ideas and ideology. I always had a fascination with the university, and its history. I have never seen a film about Islam that just is – there is always a statement, pro or against… I want to see a film which is without judgement or blinkers. I want to take the audience on a journey. It’s not one of those tours where you never leave the bus – here we make stops, eat the local food, and get sick from it. Adam is our guide – a student. He will learn the art of power, the beauty of deception and the ugliness of the truth. My fiction constantly crashes with reality. At times it scares me, but to be honest, that is why I do this: to make my dreams come true. I see myself in the context of a larger movement where people like Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mohsin Hamid, Asghar Farhadi and Bong Joon-ho have paved the way to storytelling that forces the audience to reverse their gaze.

Director's Biography

Director and Scriptwriter Tarik Saleh started as one of the top graffiti artists in Stockholm in the 80’s. He directed and wrote the screenplay for THE NILE HILTON INCIDENT that won ‘The Grand Jury Prize’ at Sundance 2017, received a Guldbagge Award for ‘Best film’ in 2018, was nominated as ‘Best Foreign Film’ at the César Awards and was a box office hit with more than 400 thousand tickets sold in France. He also directed the Hollywood film THE CONTRACTOR (2022), several episodes of the futuristic HBO-series WESTWORLD (2018) and TOMMY (2014) with Ola Rapace, Moa Gammel and singer-songwriter Lykke Li for whom he also directed the music video I follow the rivers that had some 60 million views on Youtube. His film debut came with METROPIA (2009), a dystopic animation with Stellan Skarsgård, Juliette Lewis, Vincent Gallo and Udo Kier. The film premiered at Venice Film Festival as opening film for the Critics’ Week. Tarik Saleh also directed the documentaries GITMO: THE NEW RULES OF WAR (2005) and SACRIFICIO: WHO BETRAYED CHE GUEVARA (2001) together with Erik Gandini. Tarik Saleh founded the production company Atmo together with producer Kristina Åberg.

2022 - THE CONTRACTOR, Feature
2014 - TOMMY, Feature
2009 - METROPIA, Animation
2005 - GITMO,Documentary

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Tarik Saleh

Written by: Tarik Saleh

Produced by: Fredrik Zander, Kristina Åberg, Alexandre Mallet-Guy, Mark Lwoff, Peter Possne, Anna Croneman, Mikael Ahlström, Per Bouveng, Alexander Hansson, Olivier Père, Rémi Burah, Toni Valla, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen

Cinematography: Pierre Aïm

Editing: Theis Schmidt

Production Design: Roger Rosenberg

Costume Design: Denise Östholm

Make-Up & Hair: Pia Cornelius

Original Score: Krister Linder

Sound: Fredrik Jonsäter, Pontus Borg

Visual Effects: Peter Hjorth, Alexander Hansson, Lasse Kilpiä

Casting: Naouras Nygren, Bahijja El Amrani

Cast: Tawfeek Barhom (Adam), Fares Fares (Ibrahim), Mohamad Bakri (General Al Sakran), Makram J. Khoury (Sheikh Negm), Mehdi Dehbi (Zizo), Sherwan Haji (Soliman), Moe Ayoub (Sobhy)

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2022