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  • Abdullah AliCelyn Jones...
  • Drama
  • Agustí Villaronga
reviewed by
Yasmeen Mamdouh
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Born a King: A Daring Coming-of-Age Feature

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Making a feature about a piece of a country’s history is one thing, but creating one for a country that didn’t even have theatres at the time of the shooting is much more daring. This is the case with Born a King, which wrapped in 2017, a year before movie theatres opened in Saudi Arabia.                

Born a King follows the coming-of-age story of young Prince Faisal (Abdullah Ali). After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in WWI, the young Saudi prince travels to the United Kingdom to convince the British authorities to support his father (Rawkan Binbella) in becoming the King of Saudi Arabia. Viewed as a child, not taken seriously, and ignored by the British authorities, the 14-year-old Faisal has to prove that he and his cause are worth the British authorities’ time, as the future of his entire country depends on it.

The plot mainly focuses on Prince Faisal’s trip, with some flashbacks throughout the film to set up the context, as well as establish the characters of both Faisal and his father, Abdelaziz. Choosing the trip as the main focus was a smart choice by filmmaker Agustí Villaronga, as it spared the film from falling into the rigid cinematic course of depicting a historical figure. The decision was also advantageous, as it throws light on the struggles with diplomacy and imperialism, and how a child dealt with it all with grace.

Born a King was also not afraid of delving into the politics of the matter and having its characters express their strong opinions about it.

On the other hand, the battle scenes in Saudi Arabia do seem unrealistic and cartoonish, yet luckily, they do not take much of the feature’s time.

The casting of Saudi Arabians in the key roles seems like a no-brainer, but it is too common that films with international lead roles cast actors from other countries. Born a King does not fall into that trap and it pays off; Abdullah Ali is very much able to carry the role of Faisal, with a subtle, yet adequate performance for a 14-year-old boy on a life-altering journey. Rawkan Binbella also commanded the charisma and strength that were needed to play the respected King Abdelaziz.

However, casting Ruben Ochandiano as Abdelaziz’s advisor, who accompanied Faisal to the UK, wasn’t the wisest choice. Despite his acting skills, it is plain to see that he is not Saudi, no matter how hard the makeup artist tried to show otherwise. The British cast included Ed Skrein as the persistent advocate Philby, and Hermione Corfield as Princess Mary, who both fulfilled their roles perfectly.

Without a doubt, Born a King is an interesting feature, especially for historical film fans who are very likely to take delight in this feature.



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Prince Faisal became the King of Saudi Arabia from November 1964 until his assassination in March 1975.

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