Film: Cairo Conspiracy




Adam (Tawfeek Barhom),  a poor fisherman’s son and a devout Muslim, is delighted when he wins a scholarship to Cairo’s Al Azhar University, an international hub of Islamic sunni scholarship. 

A political innocent, Adam is soon befriended by the worldly Zizo (Mehdi Dehbi) , who warns him, “Your soul is pure, but every second in this place will corrupt it.”

Next Adam is recruited as an informant by Colonel Ibrahim (Fares Fares), a government intelligence agent who instructs him to infiltrate a study group run by the radical Muslim Brotherhood. 



The sudden death of the university’s chief imam has sparked a power struggle between church and state, and the naive Adam is the unwitting political pawn in the middle.

The colonel’s goal is to manipulate the election so that the government’s preferred candidate is chosen over another cleric favoured by the Muslim Brotherhood. Though the grand imam has no official political status, he can exert a powerful influence on government decisions through his announcements and rulings.

What follows  is a compelling glimpse  of  the machinations of power in the Islamic world, an engrossing tale full of deception and intrigue by men in long flowing robes. (Only a handful of women are to be seen, all playing  menial or supporting roles.) 



Swedish director Tarik Saleh’s script won the award for best screenplay at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.. The film is an absorbing thriller, tense with the threat of violence but with little actual violence on screen. Director Saleh controversially took on the 2011 Egyptian revolution in his acclaimed 2017 political thriller The Nile Hilton Incident.

Barhom is excellent as the naive and obedient Adam who slowly starts to realise how he is being manipulated by the wily colonel.



The film was shot in Turkey with Istanbul’s Suleymaniye mosque doubling for Al Azhar. The Sweden-France-Finland co-production was Sweden’s official Oscar submission.

Cairo Conspiracy is now showing at Luna Leederville.