The film A Prophet directed by Jacques Audiard explores the life of a French Algerian who is confronted with cruel prison life that often deprives a person of his humanity. In particular, the authors of this movie attempt to show how an individual can be forced into the conflict between ethnic or religious groups.
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More importantly, it explores the interactions between individuals in an environment where hostility and hatred shape people’s behavior, decisions and attitudes toward others. Moreover, one can say that this movie is related to such a process as globalization that mergers the boundaries between states or nationalities. Nevertheless, this process does not eliminate the segregation between different groups.
Overall, A Prophet is a film that examines the influence of inequality or power struggles within the modern globalized society. By looking at this film from this perspective, one can better understand the characters, their behavior and relations with others.
The main character Malik can be regarded as an individual who does not have an opportunity to become a full-fledged member of the community. He is one of those people who suffer from economic inequality. One of the most striking details that attract attention is that Malik is an illiterate person at the age of nineteen, and he can hardly expect to find employment.
To a great extent, this example indicates that Malik occupies an extremely low status within the community. Moreover, his lack of education deprives him of any opportunity to achieve any progress. Such an individual is more likely to commit a crime and eventually become imprisoned.
It is possible to say that A Prophet describes the experiences of many young people in France, especially if they are the descendants of immigrants. This is one of the main points that should be kept in mind by the viewers of this film.
Additionally, the movie reflects some of the ideas expressed by Arjun Appadurai who introduces the concept of different scapes (Appadurai, 1990). For example, one can speak about such a term as ethnoscape that includes refugees, guest workers, tourists, immigrants, and so forth (Appadurai, 1990, p. 52).
This notion can be used to describe the movement of people across national borders in the globalized world. It is very difficult to say what kind of place Malik occupies in this ethnospace because he is not fully integrated into the French society. This situation can be partly explained by his origins. Apart from that, this film shows how ethnic differences affect the distribution of power within the prison.
In particular, Malik understand that he has to choose between two opposing factions, namely Corsicans and Muslims. The main issue is that he does not want to be involved in this struggle, but he has to do so in order to save his life.
In facts, such dilemmas are encountered by many people who live in the modern globalized society, which becomes very segregated. Therefore, A Prophet reflects the complexities of the modern societies in which cultural or national boundaries are often erased.
Moreover, one can speak about the existence of the financescapes which is also one of the notions discussed by Arjun Appadurai (1990). This notion can be interpreted as the disposition and flow of capital in the world in which the country (Apparurai, 1990).
In particular, the film demonstrates that this disposition of capital is unequal; more importantly, this inequality can be partly explained by the ethnic, racial, or religious differences among people.
Although the authors of A Prophet do not emphasize this issue in their film, this movie indicates that people representing ethnic minorities such as African immigrants and Corsicans do not have many economic opportunities in the society. Therefore, this movie demonstrates that different scapes can be closely interwoven with one another.
One of the problems that are often discussed by scholars is the idea of Orientalism or the study of Eastern cultures which was developed in the nineteenth century (Said, 1979, p. 47). In many cases, it deliberately misrepresents the customs, values, and traditions of the Asia, Middle East as well as Africa.
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This construction of Eastern cultures led to the creation of many stereotypes about Arab people or other immigrants from Africa (Said, 1979). Apart from that, these stereotypes affect the decisions of policy-makers, legislators, or governmental officials who can affect the lives of many people.
This is one of the reasons why many African-immigrants can be discriminated. The film A Prophet focuses on the problem of discrimination in contemporary France.
For example, Malik decides to change his name to Jean-Philippe because a person with a French-sounding name has more opportunities when seeking employment. So, Malik has to abandon a part of his identity in order to climb the social ladder and attain success. This is one of the details that viewers should consider when analyzing this film.
Certainly, A Prophet cannot be regarded as a film that is only aimed at exploring various aspects of globalization, economic inequalities, or racial discrimination. The film-makers wanted to focus on the experiences of Malik, his response to prison life, and his efforts to retain his humanity.
Nevertheless, this movie can give viewers deep insights into the modern life in France or any other country with large immigrant population. It is often argued that globalization can make the world more interconnected and homogeneous (Ferguson, 2006). Nevertheless, contemporary societies still remain very heterogeneous.
For example, this film shows how difficult it is for a person to remain above ethnic or religious conflicts. Malik, who follows the order of a Corsican gangster, is perceived as a traitor by other Muslim prisoners. The challenges faced by this character demonstrate that religious or ethnic affiliations still play an important even in the globalized world.
This is why it is not permissible to say that globalization has made modern communities conflict-free. More likely, it has given rise to various hostilities among people. This is one of the main problems that affect the life of a modern community.
Overall, A Prophet enables the viewers to understand the complexities of the globalized world which has become extremely interconnected. In particular, it shows that people, living in globalized communities can be alienated from others because of their ethnic or religious differences.
More importantly, these differences can explain different forms of inequality in contemporary societies. Malik, who is the main character of this movie, is an individual who has to save one’s life and integrate into the community where the worth of an individual is assessed according to his/her race, nationality, religion or ethnicity. This is one of the main issues that this movie explores.
Appadurai, A. (1990) Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy. London: Theory, Culture and Society.
Ferguson, J. (2006). Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order. Durham: Duke University Press.
Said. E. (1979). Orientalism. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.