‘The Unknown Saint’: the terrific Moroccan satire you need to watch on Netflix
(Credit: Netflix)


'The Unknown Saint': the terrific Moroccan satire you need to watch on Netflix

Are you in search of a smart satire that deep dives into matters of faith, human nature, and the quest for meaning? Look no further than The Unknown Saint, a delightful Moroccan satire directed by the talented Alaa Eddine Aljem. This film, now available on Netflix, was chosen as Morocco’s official entry for the ‘Best International Feature Film’ at the 93rd Academy Awards. It may not have received the coveted nomination ultimately, but this hidden gem is very much worth watching.

The Franco-Moroccan co-production The Unknown Saint, aka Le Miracle du Saint Inconnu, is the brainchild of writer-director Aljem, whose impeccable storytelling and keen eye for visual humour make this film a standout feature film debut. Set against the backdrop of a derelict desert village, the story begins with a thief (played by Younes Bouab) who buries a bag of stolen loot, intending to retrieve it later. However, after a stint behind bars, when he returns to the village, he finds that a mausoleum honouring an unknown saint now covers the spot where he hid his treasure.

As the thief grapples with this unexpected turn of events, he encounters a colourful cast of characters, including the sarcastic Ahmed the Brain (portrayed by Salah Bensalah) and the steadfast mausoleum guard (played by Abdelghani Kitab). Together, they navigate a world where superstition and rumour reign supreme, leading to a series of comedic misadventures and unexpected twists. But do not go in expecting an Adam Sandler-esque comedy full of scat jokes, adult men acting like buffoons, and the proverbial “idiot characters” that the Happy Gilmore star loves so much.

What sets The Unknown Saint apart is its ability to blend exceptionally dry humour that never needs to rely on silly punchlines. Aljem’s film tackles complex themes such as collective faith, the search for meaning, and the clash between tradition and modernity with wit and tremendous restraint. Through its clever dialogue and nuanced performances, the film invites viewers to ponder the absurdities of human behaviour while keeping them entertained from start to finish. There is also a twist ending thrown in.

One of the film’s greatest strengths lies in its visual storytelling. Aljem expertly captures the stark beauty of the Moroccan landscape, using it to enhance the situational humour of the story. From the dusty village streets to the sprawling desert vistas, every frame is imbued with a sense of stillness and charm.

The Unknown Saint benefits from a talented ensemble cast that brings eccentric characters to life with aplomb. Whether it’s the dextrous barber-cum-dentist or the newly arrived doctor and his sly assistant, each actor delivers a performance worth remembering and applauding.

While The Unknown Saint may not have received the recognition it deserves on the awards circuit, it is a delectable choice for those who don’t mind slow-burn religious satires. With streaks of comic undertones similar to Elia Suleiman’s Divine Intervention, it is for those who watch films and seek their entertainment with a side serving of enlightenment.

You can stream The Unknown Saint on Netflix now.