The Unknown Saint (Le Miracle du Saint Inconnu) opens with a thief running up a remote, barren hill with a bag and a shovel. He buries the bag and covers up the spot to make it look like a grave. He is arrested and sent to prison. When he is released years later, he returns to the hill with the intention of retrieving his loot, a moment he has no doubt secretly dreamed about every day of his incarceration. However, when he arrives, he discovers that the grave has been turned into a pilgrimage site in honor of an unknown saint, and that a thriving village has cropped up to service the many visitors.
The village is filled with eccentric characters, such as an old man who has devoted his life to trying to bring rain to this arid region; a combination barber/dentist who saves his premium shaving foam for his favorite customers; and the new doctor who soon realizes that he can give any medicine to the women who come to his office because they only do so because they are bored. Adding to this motley group, the thief recruits a prison friend, a fellow so dumb he is afraid to dig up the “grave” even though he knows it isn’t really a grave.
This is director Alaa Eddine Aljem’s first feature film, but it is certain not to be his last. He has said that the characters in The Unknown Saint are primarily inspired by family members and other people he knows. “I have a large and somewhat absurd family,” he says, “so there is no shortage of material for my next films.”