A Prophet (2009)—France
I resisted watching this long (150 minutes) film because of its graphic violence and coarse language. It is, after all, a crime thriller set inside a foreboding French prison. But Jacques Audiard's (cf. The Beat That My Heart Skipped) film is artfully made and has won numerous international awards, including an Oscar nomination for best foreign film. The story revolves around the character transformation of a nineteen-year-old French Arab named Malik, who has been sentenced to six years in prison. In no time at all he is "offered" protection from the aging Corsican mob boss César Luciani, which protection he very much needs, can't refuse, and must pay for by doing the criminal biddings of César, both inside and even outside the prison. Malik is transformed from an innocent inmate and (to the Corsicans) "dirty Arab" who is under the total control of César into an accomplished criminal. The movie is scary enough as a genre prison film, and even more so as a graphic social commentary on a brutal aspect of French society. In French and Arabic with English subtitles.