Jordan’s very first film ever to premiere at Festival de Cannes, Inshallah A Boy, tells the story of Nawal (Mouna HawaIn Between, A Gaza Weekend), a thirtysomething woman, who has recently lost her husband. Now she has to fight for her part of inheritance in order to save her daughter and home in a society where having a son would be a game changer.

With the country’s religious sharia laws in play, Nawal feels the constant pressure to survive the patriarchy, as her brothers-in-law are forcing her out of the apartment she’s raising her daughter in. Willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they don’t end up on the street, Nawal makes up a fake pregnancy to buy herself some time to find a solution, while dealing with some deep-rooted emotional trauma.

Amjad Al Rasheed directs an unmistakably topical feature film debut that puts himself on the world map. The subjects at hand are controversial, even in the West where abortion and women’s rights are currently making headlines. The lines between Middle-East and West have never been blurrier than in today’s modern world. It’s remarkable and encouraging to see a rise in female-centred stories coming from the Middle-East, that revolve around their rights, the wrongdoings of religion and where women belong in all of this.

The writing is strong but falters here and there by becoming a bit tedious and repetitive. Luckily the immensely talented Mouna Hawa has a screen presence unlike any other, captivating your attention for the entire span of the film’s runtime. Her emotionally driven performance drives her character full speed ahead leaving the supporting cast to eat dust. You can see the dedication in her eyes, hear the power in her words and feel the strength in her tears. Hawa’s rebellious performance deserves nothing but praise.

Inshallah A Boy is a huge triumph for Jordan, and hopefully inspires a whole new generation of local filmmakers to tell daring stories and challenge us to think.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), May 19, 2023. Running time: 113 min.

PRODUCTION: A The Imaginarium, Bayt Al Shawareb & Georges Films production. Producers: Aseel Abu Ayyash & Rula Nasser.

CREW: Director: Amjad Al Rasheed. Writers: Delphine Agut, Rula Nasser & Amjad Al Rasheed. Cinematography: Kanamé Onoyama. Editing: Ahmed Afez. Music: Andrew Lancaster & Jerry Lane.

CAST: Mouna Hawa, Hitham Omari, Yumna Marwan, Salwa Nakkara, Mohammed Al Jizawi, Eslam Al-Awadi & Celina Rabab’a.

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