ISLAMABAD: This is a first for Kuch Khaas: the Islamabad-based centre for arts and culture screened Prince Among Slaves, in celebration of Black History Month.
The 45-minute historical recreation is directed, written and produced by Andrea Kalin and narrated by Mos Def. It is the first among a series of films being screened exclusively at Kuch Khaas (KK) that explore African American heritage, slavery practices, and historical anecdotes.
In collaboration with Ashley of the US embassy, Shahanna Khan Khalil, a programmes officer at KK, organised the screening as a means to provide Pakistanis with much needed exposure to African-American history.
“The film is about the struggle for freedom and rights,” Ashley said in her brief introduction.
The plot revolves around the plight of one Abdul Rahman, prince of Timbu, captured by slavers in West Africa, and forced to relinquish his royalty for slavedom. We travel with him as he enters the vast and alien American landscape with little hope for return.
“The violence is so heartbreaking,” said Sophia Arandia, moved by the treatment of African slaves at the hands of their cruel masters. Other audience members mirrored her sentiments as their faces evinced looks of shock and concern at the brutality depicted on screen.
In addition to remarkable historical detail and carefully researched anecdotes, the film boasts a great deal of psychological investigation: viewers get a glimpse of the way many slaves, including Prince (Abdul Rahman’s servile name), mentally adapted to their tragic circumstances and tried to make the best of their new lives.
Although Prince wins his freedom, after a decade-long personal and bureaucratic struggle, the movie ends on a tragic note as Abdul Rahman returns to Africa, new wife in tow, without his American children. He was unable to purchase their freedom due to severe racism and shoddy politics.
The film started much earlier than advertised. Luckily, Khalil obliged the upset latecomers by agreeing to replay the touching film. One was left wondering if the dedicated KK staff ever goes home…
“We wanted to host more multi-cultural events here so the idea of doing this was very exciting,” said Khalil, when asked about KK’s interest in Black History Month. Those willing to learn more should check out the remainder of the series, The Color Purple being next in cue.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2011.
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