A Prophet

Director: Jacques Audiard
Screenwriters: Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain

Institute History

  • 2010 Sundance Film Festival


At the outset of his six-year prison sentence, Malik El Djebena, a 19-year-old French Arab, appears no match for the brutal system. Unable to sidestep the rival Corsican and Arab factions, he’s swiftly brought into the Corsican fold by its kingpin, Cesar, who compels him to kill an Arab prisoner. But Malik gradually ingratiates himself with Cesar, learning the language and turning informant. When the influential Cesar secures “leave days” for Malik (to do his bidding), he unwittingly sets up his own downfall. Malik’s criminal persona matures, and servitude turns to mastery.

An outstanding crime drama, Jacques Audiard’s Cannes winner transcends genre through its character complexity, thematic depth, and sheer cinematic intensity. Anchored in Tahar Rahim’s arresting performance, A Prophet explores the formation of Malik’s identity. When his options become kill or be killed, coming-of-age refuses neat moral paradigms. Audiard counters the film’s coarse aesthetic and lifeless hues with an unexpected serenity and fabulist impulses (a ghost haunts Malik throughout), creating a rich inner space.

— John Nein

Screening Details

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