Jordanian filmmaker Amjad Al-Rasheed discusses ‘Inshallah A Boy,’ his country’s first Cannes entry
Arab News: At 38, Jordanian filmmaker Amjad Al-Rasheed has already made history. This month, his debut feature, “Inshallah A Boy,” became the first Jordanian film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival — the most prestigious event in world cinema.
As well as feeling “very proud and excited,” Al-Rasheed has also felt the stress of “a huge responsibility” to be representing his country and the wider Arab world at Cannes he told Arab News two days after the film’s screening at the French festival.
“Inshallah A Boy” — a co-production between Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — might be Al-Rasheed’s first feature as director, but it’s been a long time in the making, going back to his childhood.
“When I was 12, I was watching a black-and-white movie (starring) Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama. My mother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told her I wanted to be a director. She was smiling — I didn’t understand what a director was, but I knew it was someone who was a storyteller,” he said. “I’ve wanted to tell stories since I was a kid.”
The story Al-Rasheed is telling in “Inshallah A Boy” (which he co-wrote with Rula Nasser and Delphine Agut and filmed using an all-Jordanian crew, apart from the Japanese director of photography) is a striking, though not particularly happy, one. At its heart is the recently widowed Nawal (Mouna Hawa), a nurse living in a low-income East Amman neighborhood whose husband Adnan died suddenly in his sleep.
The only property that he leaves behind is a pickup, which Adnan’s brother Rifqi (Haitam Omari) insists on selling so that he can reclaim some of the money that Adnan owed him.
Over the course of the film, Rifqi becomes more and more impatient, even taking Nawal to court to resolve his financial claims. Feeling cornered, and with no real support from her own brother, Nawal stalls Rifqi by claiming to be pregnant.
If she were to bear a son, then Rifqi would have no claim on Adnan’s estate, including the apartment in which Nawal lives with her daughter, Nora. She is assisted by Lauren (Yumna Marwan), the daughter of Nawal’s bossy Christian employer Souad (Salwa Nakkara). Lauren is constantly complaining about her unfaithful husband, and decides she wants to terminate her pregnancy.
Nawal agrees to accompany Lauren to a clinic in East Amman where they will perform abortions, and in return receives documents from Lauren that state Nawal is pregnant — thus keeping Rifqi at bay for at least nine months.