The Unknown Saint (SIFF) Review

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The Unknown Saint: A Tale of Greed, Faith, and Misfortune

In the film “The Unknown Saint,” director Alaa Eddine Aljem weaves a cleverly absurd tale that explores themes of greed, faith, and misfortune. The story revolves around a hapless thief, played by Younes Bouab, who buries his stolen cash in an unmarked grave near a desolate desert road. After serving a prison sentence, the thief returns to retrieve his money, only to find that the landscape has changed.

A Surprising Discovery

Instead of the inconspicuous hill he remembers, the thief comes across a small building called the “Mausoleum of the Unknown Saint.” The site has become a place of pilgrimage, with visitors praying for healing and blessings. Intrigued and desperate to retrieve his loot, the thief encounters various obstacles, including a vigilant guard and his loyal dog. He also finds himself entangled with other thieves attempting to steal coins from the mausoleum’s fountain.

The Eccentric Town

As the story unfolds, the thief immerses himself in the eccentric town surrounding the mausoleum. Each character he encounters has unique quirks and desires. The devoted guard, played by Abdelghani Kitab, will go to great lengths to protect the mausoleum and its precious contents. Hassan, portrayed by Bouchaib Semmak, dreams of escaping his humble desert life, while his father Brahim, played by Mohammed Nouaimane, believes that his prayers will bring rain to the drought-stricken land.

The arrival of a doctor, portrayed by Anas El Baz, adds another layer of complexity to the narrative. The doctor discovers that a nurse, played by Hassan Ben Bdida, prescribes the same pills to every patient. Out of boredom, they concoct schemes to convince pilgrims of the saint’s divine powers. Meanwhile, the thief’s former accomplice, known as “the Brain,” offers sinister suggestions to steal the money but draws a moral line when it comes to desecrating a supposed holy site.

A Blend of Humor and Meaning

The Unknown Saint, running at 100 minutes, showcases a careful yet sly sense of humor as dry as the film’s desert setting. While it may occasionally feel repetitive and lose its grip on the audience’s attention, the film’s admirable debut from Aljem leaves a lasting impression. The meticulously framed wide shots of the expansive desert landscape provide a genuine sense of place and immerse the viewers in a world of deceit, dubious miracles, and the elusive pursuit of something to believe in – be it money, an “unknown saint,” or any other form of salvation.

Through its modest premise, The Unknown Saint delves deeper into themes of faith, morality, and finding one’s purpose. The narrative invites reflection on how individuals construct meaning within their lives, whether through religious devotion, personal ambitions, or the pursuit of material wealth.


The Unknown Saint stands as an intriguing exploration of the human condition, using its quirky characters and unlikely circumstances to provoke thought and entertain. While the film may have benefited from a more concise screenplay or a shorter runtime, Aljem’s directorial skills shine through, demonstrating his ability to craft a story that balances humor, perplexity, and bursts of unexpected revelations. The film ultimately reminds us that sometimes the most profound discoveries await us in the most unexpected places.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is “The Unknown Saint” based on a true story?

No, “The Unknown Saint” is a work of fiction created by writer-director Alaa Eddine Aljem. Although inspired by human foibles and the search for meaning, the specific events depicted in the film are not based on real-life occurrences.

2. Is the film suitable for all audiences?

The film is rated for a general audience and can be enjoyed by viewers of various ages. However, it does contain some mild humor and thematic elements that may require mature interpretation.

3. What makes “The Unknown Saint” unique among other films?

“The Unknown Saint” stands out for its blend of dry humor, absurdist storytelling, and its exploration of faith and human nature. It offers a unique perspective on the pursuit of material wealth and the different paths individuals take to find meaning in their lives.

4. Are there any notable performances in the film?

The cast of “The Unknown Saint” delivers strong performances, with Younes Bouab as the hapless thief, Abdelghani Kitab as the dedicated guard, and Bouchaib Semmak as the ambitious dreamer. Each actor brings depth and nuance to their respective roles, adding to the film’s overall impact.

5. Where can I watch “The Unknown Saint”?

“The Unknown Saint” premiered at the 47th Seattle International Film Festival, and its distribution may vary depending on your location and local cinemas. Keep an eye out for screenings at film festivals and independent theaters, or check reputable streaming platforms for availability in the future.