Opening 7 Nov 2019
In May 2011 Fahim (Assad Ahmed) and his father Nura (Mizanur Rahaman) flee Bangladesh for Paris. They have the problems of all illegal refugees: sleeping on the street and looking for a job. The Red Cross provides lunch. Fahim at age eight is an enthusiastic, talented chess player. By September 2011, Fahim can speak French (and translates for his father) and is introduced to Sylvain (Gérard Depardieu), who teaches chess to six young people. ”Chess is war between two brains.” Fahim joins the group and works his way up into competitions, bravely correcting Sylvain during lessons. Mathilde (Isabelle Nantry) works in the chess club office and has an eye out for Sylvain. Then comes the French Youth Chess Championship for players 12-years-old and younger in Marseille, May 2012. But his father, still unemployed, has been told to leave the country.
Fahim Mohammad’s life has been portrayed in the book A King in Hiding (2014) and now we have the film, which is successful, not only for the intense story, but also thanks to the talented actors. Assad Ahmed, who plays Fahim, is also from Bangladesh and actually learned French while filming on the set. Depardieu never fails to delight and here he is the strict, grumpy, nagging teacher who pushes the pupils to new heights. When his nerves begin to crack, he cries, “You, kids, go take a cigarette break.” The moral is: keep trying, never give up, everything is possible. (Becky Tan)