FAHIM (FAHIM, THE LITTLE CHESS PRINCE)
Friday, February 28 | 107 min
Pierre François Martin-Laval | 2019
France | French, Bengali (English subtitles)
North American Premiere
Forced to flee his native Bangladesh, eight year-old chess prodigy Fahim arrives in Paris with his father. Refused asylum, as illegal immigrants, they spiral downwards into homelessness and desperation. By a stroke of luck, Fahim is introduced to one of France’s top chess coaches, Sylvain (real name: Xavier Parmentier), who tutors him and gives him a sense of purpose – his struggles on the chessboard mirroring both his victories and his crushing defeats in his battle for a normal life. Fahim then rises through local and national tournaments only to be crowned France’s Under-12 Chess Champion in 2012.
The film tells the story of a child who learns to live without his mother and without his father, far from home, from his roots and his language. Fahim’s tale is not only a moving account of the grim realities that underlie a supposedly caring society, but also a heartwarming testimony to a father’s determination, the kindness of strangers, and one small boy’s courageous will to succeed.
Here’s a gentle yet passionate true story about a few human beings trying to do their best in life. Fahim (a fine Assad Ahmed) is a Bangladeshi boy who is a natural whiz at chess. Believing in his son’s talent, his father leaves his family behind to take Fahim to France. There, they confront the cold reality of so many refugees: lack of housing, money, work and a legal reason to stay in the country. But then there is a chess school for youngsters run by a growling tyrant of an instructor played by the always-majestic Gérard Depardieu and his kind, sunny assistant, lovingly played by Isabelle Nanty. They take little Fahim in hand, but there are still many hurdles to surmount, mainly their lack of funds and the question of asylum.
Your heart will be in your throat for this stranded, but spunky father-son duo, so do run to this uplifting biography of the real Fahim Mohammed, directed by Pierre-François Martin-Laval. Next time a man comes around selling roses at your restaurant table…buy one.
— Le News
Sarah Touffic Othman-Schmitt
Youth Jury Award, Namur International Francophone Film Festival (Belgium 2019)