Condemned to six years in prison, 19-year-old Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim), part Arab, part Corsican, cannot read or write. Arriving at the jail entirely alone, he appears younger and more fragile than the other convicts. Cornered by the leader of the Corsican gang who rules the prison, he is given a number of “missions” to carry out, toughening him up and gaining the gang leader’s confidence in the process. But Malik is brave and a fast learner, daring to secretly develop his own plans. Directed and co-written by Jacques Audiard (The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Read My Lips). Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.
A Prophet by director/co-writer Jacques Audiard
A Prophet is a film in a foreign language. A foreign language for you, the American public, but also for me, a French director.
A Prophet tells the story of a young Arab, homeless, without family, without friends, who can neither read nor write. He is sentenced to six years in prison. By the time he gets out six years later, he will have become the well respected capo of the prison yard. In that time, he will also have learned foreign languages and two or three other things. Like me, in fact.
As I say that, I get the feeling that this was the real objective in “the Prophet enterprise.”
After making four films devoted to worlds that I knew more or less, with characters who resembled me at worst, like brothers, and at best, like neighbors, I said to myself that it was time to look elsewhere and go meet characters I didn’t know.
Elsewhere was prison and the characters, the prisoners, meaning Arabs, Africans and Corsicans, that, for sure, I didn’t know much about!
The first day of shooting in prison I nearly fainted, the second day I tried to escape—the producer chased after me in his car—the third day I decided to do what I came for: make a film.
A film in a language I didn’t know.
I hope that today this foreign language will be for us a common one.