Agadir – Morocco has nominated “The Unknown Saint” by Alaa Eddine Aljem as its entry for the 2021 Academy Awards.
According to IMDB, the film follows “a criminal who returns to the fake grave where he buried his loot years before and discovers that it has become the shrine of an unknown saint and a thriving little village.”
The film has done well so far in the festival circuits, winning the Best Sound and Best First Feature at the 2020 Tangier International Film Festival, as well as the Youth Jury Award for Best film at the 2019 Valladolid International Film Festival.
The film stars Younes Bouab, Salah Ben Saleh, Bouchaib Semmak, Mohammed Nouaimane, and Anas Al-Baz, and is in fact Aljem’s first feature film.
Morocco’s selection committee, chaired by journalist and film critic Bilal Marmid, chose the film in accordance with criteria established by the “Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,” said the Centre Cinematographique Marocain (CCM) in a press release.
Morocco submitted its first film to the Oscars in 1977, Blood Wedding by Souheil Ben-Barka, and its next one 11 years later, in 1988, Mektoub by Nabil Ayouch. Morocco has since submitted a film almost every year.
Nabil Ayouch, meanwhile, has represented Morocco at the Academy Awards three more times since 1988, with his other works chosen in 2000, 2013, and 2017.
Morocco has been long established as a great filming location: home to such productions as “Gladiator,” “The Mummy,” “Lawrence of Arabia”, and globally renowned “Game of Thrones.” But only in recent years have domestic productions reached international audiences, bringing back swathes of awards and nominations.
It was King Mohammed’s VI ascension to the throne in 1999, with his love for art and film, that marked the take-off of Moroccan cinema.
In the past two decades, the still-infant — but promisingly growing — Moroccan film industry has received increasing attention from critics, as well as investments and interest from the authorities. The Moroccan cultural landscape has as a result shown promising signs of an industry that could flourish if sustainably supported.