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A French film set in a prison that is a microcosm for all the conflict zones of multicultural France, “Un Prophete” sometimes lost me in cultural subtext between French, Arabs, Italians, Corsicans and who knows who else. But the hero of this film is in a similar spot: he grew up bilingual Arab-French, and through a tragically unfortunate timing of his incarceration he ends up being with the Corsican group, led by all-mighty Luciano (Luciano… how would I know why he hates the Italians???). Despised by the Corsicans for being “The Arab”, hated by the Arabs for sleeping with the enemy, he stays a loner all through his six years of prison. He decides to play along with the rules of prison mafia, and becomes part of a violent and lucrative system. In terms of style, the film is a mix of bluntly violent prison drama and personal study of the character at its centre. There are dream sequences and visions, but mostly what is conveyed is the stark reality of life in a terribly unpleasant place. No wonder the film got to become a critics’ darling. Even though it is some half hour too long and leaves you alone with climatic events very early on, it picks up pace again once Malik starts his career outside prison and with his innocent demeanour manages to play along with very unpleasant characters. Good stuff for those who are not faint of heart…

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