The Black Prince
BIFF kicked off last Friday with The Black Prince, an exquisitely photographed and sumptuously designed period drama telling the story of Maharaja Duleep Singh, during a complex and controversial time of shared British Indian colonial history. Duleep played by Punjabi music star Satinder Sartaaj is crowned as king at the age of five, but taken from his mother to be raised as a Christian in England by Queen Victoria. Following a reunion with his mother during adulhood, played brilliantly by Shabana Azmi, he is torn between two cultures. Following her death Duleep begins a quest to challenge the British Raj, return to India and free his people as a Sikh.
The Black Prince is insightful, thought provoking, and raises many important questions about Britain’s colonial past and the significance of exploring history and heritage. This movie is not simply for South Asian audiences as with all the BIFF films, but a story that is educational and quite necessary, particularly during times of xenophobia and rising fear of the ‘other’. It is an interesting piece of educational material that challenges modern education in Britain that needs to be de-colonised, and told from a range of perspectives.
It is wonderful to see many people from the local South Asian community hitting the red carpet at the screening, a particularly strong presence from Birmingham’s Punjabi community and media, including the main star Satinder Sartaaj participating in a Q and A. This is what makes BIFF special and of huge value to the city, making the cinema experience exciting, unlike sitting at home in front of your laptop with Netflix. Cinema is certainly not dead as long as Film Festivals like BIFF continue to entertain, challenge and enlighten us with the range of movies available. We need these stories to be told.