THE PRINCE— 4 STARS
Sometimes the shortest memories become lasting ones. Ask any person of color if they remember the first time they were called a derogatory racial slur. They will probably have a story to tell.
LESSON #1: YOU REMEMBER SMALL MOMENTS OF HEIGHTENED EMOTIONS— Stay on racial slurs for a bit and field one of those stories. The introductory moment in question might have been fleeting and the person who uttered might have been a stranger they never saw again. No matter the person’s age at the time, however, the emotional responses from that vivid moment were activated with fight-or-flight and stuck with them.
In concisely thematic way, the award-winning short film The Prince, written and directed by Kyra Zagorsky, is a moving artistic interpretation of one of those such moments. It indeed has a thought-provoking story to tell, and the result creates a resonating effect in short order, the chief goal of a good short film. The Prince’s key to accomplishing its depth is the twin layers it uses to portray and describe its moment.
Two school-aged children, Olivia and Jason (Ashe Sabongui and her younger brother Bodhi) are riding a city bus with a man named Amir (Lee Majdoub, recently seen in The Mountain Between Us) on a sunny brisk day like any other. Observed by handheld camera shot by cinematographer Josh Knepper within the semi-crowded setting of weary blue-collar folk, they are enjoying each other’s company, and we learn the man is their beloved uncle and an aspiring actor. Their quality time is interrupted by an incensed passenger (actor and TV set dresser Brendan Taylor) who targets Amir with his words.
When the niece and nephew witness this racially-charged confrontation that calls them names they’ve never heard before, it incites both anger and questions. The Prince merges the transpiring event with the fallout that resulted for both Amir and Olivia. The actor and uncle finds himself regretting lowering himself to an offensive ethnic film role while Olivia reenacts the bus ride with a wordless illustrative tap dance audition.
Each moment of the incident becomes a different stirring step and formative flourish in Olivia (a performance guided by choreographer Alexia Smith). Her percussive feet and the stern musical score from video game composer Oleksa Lozowchuk (Dead Man Rising series) pace and punctuate the tension and drama of narrative. The effect of the shifting perspective is marvelous, guided by the smooth and smart editing from Knepper and his co-editor Daniel Boileau. Each layer trades volleys with either repetition and foreshadowing of the witnessed microcosm event. Creating such mature honesty and engrossing provocation in two matched tangents is a real credit to Kyra Zagorsky in taking something brief and encapsulating the profound.
LESSON #2: GOOD UNCLES ARE FATHER FIGURES— The commendable character choice of this modern parable happening in the presence of a non-parent is an excellent point of view for this short film to present. Parents typically have the lead job of being the explainers of the world for children, but that doesn’t mean other family members or adults cannot add to that. We don’t know know why Amir is taking the kids to school on this day or if a father is in the picture or not, and we don’t have to. The important thing is the teachable moment and example led by Amir when teaching and an example is needed. There was no “sorry, man, not my problem” factor for him. That’s a good uncle right there.
LESSON #3: THERE IS NO PLACE FOR ISLAMOPHOBIA AND RACIAL TYPECASTING— Amir and his family members are as American as the next man, woman, or child. It shouldn’t take endless reminders, but a short like The Prince properly asserts the fact that there is no place for verbal abuse and ignorance. Watch the bystanders in this scene and wish for better people. Our children are watching and they see those behaviors, both action and inaction. For too long, people from diverse backgrounds have had to turn the other cheek. Most do and chose their battles, so to speak, but they shouldn’t have to.
LOGO DESIGNED BY MEENTS ILLUSTRATED (#676)