A devout imam (Ahmad Alfishawy) starts to question both his faith and his own values upon hearing of the passing of pop icon Michael Jackson. Discovering the King of Pop at a young age, Jackson’s music and fashion played big part, much to the chagrin of his gruff father (Maged El Kedwany), in the man’s teenage years. Locking that side of himself away, in order to follow a more righteous path, the sheikh finds that the past does not stay buried for long.

As strange as the premise for Amr Salama’s Sheikh Jackson may sound, the most surprising thing about his drama is how grounded it is. While there are numerous nods to the various stages of Jackson’s career, most notably the hair styles and clothing, Salama avoids going down the quirky path that one would expect. Instead he paints a poignant portrait of a father and son unable to connect with each other in a meaningful way. Through their turbulent relationship, Salama examines grief, culture, religious guilt, and the way people hide their true self in order to fit into societal norms.

By using Michael Jackson as a binding presence in the young cleric’s life, Salama is able to raise important questions about the perception of masculinity and power within certain cultures. Though primarily a father-son narrative, the women in the film show a self-confidence that is lacking within the protagonist and his father. All of this helps to make Sheikh Jackson a refreshingly layered story of being true to oneself.

Friday, September 15, 6 PM, Elgin Theatre
Saturday, September 16, 5:45 PM, Scotiabank 2
Sunday, September 17, 9:30 AM, Scotiabank 13

Tickets can be purchased at the TIFF website.