“Inshallah a son” recounts the fight of a widow for her emancipation, in Jordan


Presented in May 2023 at Critics’ Week, where it won the prestigious Broadcasting Prize from the Gan Foundation for Cinema, Inshallah a Son , by Amjad Al Rasheed, is the first Jordanian film selected at the Cannes Film Festival. Featuring a slowly building suspense, this dramatic comedy retraces the vicissitudes of the widowhood of Nawal (Palestinian actress Mouna Hawa), 30, who has just lost her husband. Dead when waking up. “When a woman loses her husband, she loses her lover, her partner, everything in her life,” she is reminded at the funeral wake. Nawal is not at the end of his troubles. She must now fight for her inheritance: keeping her apartment and custody of her daughter, in a society where having a son would be a game-changer, proves to be a perilous task.

According to jurisprudence, the widow must share the shares of her small three-room apartment in Amman with her brother-in-law Rifqi (Haitham Omari). Unable to prove that she participated in its financing – her husband did not sign the form – and not having been authorized to take out a loan from a bank – she is a woman – she decides to bluff pretending to be pregnant to stay the judge’s order.

Despite the mourning, the film is in a sunny mood, like Nawal, who slaloms between the laws, runs between his work and his daughter’s school, knows how to say no to the men who offer to think for him in endless negotiations, puts on and removes her veil at lightning speed… She struggles with the grace and joyful optimism of those who firmly believe in their decisions, which differentiates her from the Brechtian-inspired Mothers of Courage.

Bureaucratic spiral

If the whole thing teaches us a lot about the country’s patriarchal legislation, the film does not only focus on the history of a law. The plot – co-written by French screenwriter Delphine Agut – takes us into a bureaucratic spiral. To what extent can Nawal be heard? taken seriously? supported? We think a lot of a model of the genre, I, Daniel Blake (2016), by Ken Loach, in which a sick man fights against institutions to receive his disability allowance.

Nawal has three weeks to resolve the situation. It is in this race against time, based on realism and little tricks, that fiction takes on its full meaning. By making it appear that she is expecting a child from her late husband, Nawal shifts the story to the side of her incantation – Inshallah a son!” » – and gives him the taste of the little miracle.

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