MANIFF: The Black Prince

Director: Kavi Raz
Studio: Brillstein Entertainment Partners & Firdaus Production
Starring: Satinder Sartaaj, Amanda Root, Jason Flemyng & Shabana Azmi

The Black Prince is a period drama based on the true story of the Last King of Punjab, Duleep Singh (Satinder Sartaaj), who came to power at the age of five . However, following the first Anglo-Sikh war, he was taken away from his mother and later his country, and put into the care of Dr. John Login (Jason Flemyng). The film finds him here, now a Christian, and living the life of an English aristocrat. The film follows Duleep as he begins to rediscover his roots and attempts to get back to his own country to drive out the British. In the telling of its story the film examines themes of British colonialism and its consequences, something most apparent in the scenes between Duleep and Queen Victoria (Amanda Root), and in the complex relationship between these two figures.

The film is very brave in trying to tell such a vast and complex story, however ultimately struggles to capture, which is a shame because there is such great potential in the film’s story and themes. The film is very dialogue driven- which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but some of the more corny dialogue could use some development. It also feels the need to over explain its plot, turning the majority of its scenes into unnecessary exposition dumps rather than trusting the characters and the images to tell the story. Because of this there are scenes in the film which more or less serve to recap the plot, unnecessarily adding to the length of the film and giving it an overall bloated feel.

Being a period piece the costumes were important and this is one area where the film really delivered for me. The acting was a mixed bag; Jason Flemyng puts in a good performance, as does Shabana Azmi, but are thoroughly held back by the script which was just too melodramatic to be taken seriously. This was the acting debut of Satinder Sartaaj, one of Punjab’s most acclaimed singer poets, who demonstrates a clear screen presence that leaves me hoping to see him grace the silver screen again in the future.

Unless you’re passionately interested in the life of Duleep Singh The Black Prince is unlikely to be for you. Though the film certainly piqued my interest in the man and history, I felt such an interesting story could have been handled better.

We teamed up with Humanity Hallows to bring you complete coverage of the Manchester International Film Festival. You can view the full list of reviews which is being updated as we post new content here.


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