A Prophet

A Prophet (French: Un prophète) is a 2009 French prison drama-crime film directed by Jacques Audiard with a screenplay by Audiard, with Thomas Bidegain, Abdel Raouf Dafri, and Nicolas Peufaillit, from a story by Dafri. The film stars Tahar Rahim in the title role as an imprisoned petty criminal of Algerian origins who rises in the inmate hierarchy, becoming an assassin and drug trafficker as he initiates himself into the Corsican and then Muslim subcultures.

A Prophet
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJacques Audiard
Produced by
  • Martine Cassinelli
  • Antonin Dedet
Screenplay by
Story byAbdel Raouf Dafri
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyStéphane Fontaine
Edited byJuliette Welfling
Distributed byUGC Distribution
Release date
  • 16 May 2009 (2009-05-16) (Cannes)
  • 26 August 2009 (2009-08-26) (France)
Running time
155 minutes[1]
  • France
  • Italy
  • French
  • Arabic
  • Corsican
Budget$13 million[2]
Box office$17.9 million[2]


Malik El Djebena, a 19-year-old French youth of Algerian descent, is sentenced to six years in prison for attacking police officers. Alone and illiterate upon his arrival, he falls under the sway of Corsican mobsters, led by César Luciani, who enforces a brutal rule.

The prison is divided between two main factions: the Corsicans and the Muslims. Malik keeps to himself. When Luciani forces him to be the unwilling assassin of Reyeb, a Muslim witness in a trial, Malik gains the protection of the Corsicans despite his Arab origin.

Malik serves as a low-level servant to the Corsicans, who treat him with disdain. All the while, he is haunted by visions of the murdered Reyeb.

When most of the Corsicans are transferred or released, Luciani is forced to give Malik more responsibility. Having secretly learned Corsican, Malik acts as Luciani's eyes and ears in the prison. When Malik earns the privilege of day-long furloughs outside the prison, Luciani relies on him to conduct Luciani's criminal business outside.

Ryad, a Muslim friend, teaches Malik to read and write, and the two become close. Ryad teaches Malik about his own heritage, introducing him to two other Muslims, Tarik and Hassan, and increasing his power within the prison.

Malik also becomes involved with a prison drug dealer, Jordi. When Ryad gains an early release due to testicular cancer, the three partners organize a drug-running enterprise to sell hashish. But when Ryad is kidnapped by the drug dealer Latif, Malik tracks down Latif's relative inside the prison. He kidnaps the relative's family and forces Latif's gang to release Ryad.

When Luciani discovers that Malik is using his day-releases for his own personal enterprise, he punishes him. Malik is sent to meet Brahim Lattrache in Marseille, another Muslim, who is involved in a deal between Luciani and the Lingherris, an Italian mafia group. Lattrache is bitter toward the Corsicans for the murder of Reyeb and holds Malik at gunpoint. When Malik spots a deer warning sign, he remembers a recent dream of deer running in the road. He tells his kidnappers that they are in danger of hitting wild animals, and they suddenly strike a deer. Lattrache is impressed by Malik, calling him a prophet and agreeing to conduct criminal business with him instead of Luciani, even though Malik admitted that he killed Reyeb.

Luciani believes there is a "mole" in his organization and decides to use Malik to assassinate Jacky Marcaggi, the don of the Corsican mafia, for secretly dealing with the Lingherris. But Malik and Ryad have their own plan for Marcaggi: they kill his bodyguards, kidnap him, and inform him that it was Luciani who ordered the hit before abandoning him in the city.

Malik takes refuge at Ryad's house with his wife and young son. Ryad's cancer has returned; his decision to forego more chemotherapy leaves him just six months to live. He gets Malik to promise to take care of his family when he's gone.

Upon Malik's return to the prison, he is placed in solitary for returning late - putting him out of reach of Luciani's retribution - while Marcaggi uses his influence to wipe out much of Luciani's faction. Once back in general population, Malik joins the Muslim faction in the yard. When a now powerless Luciani tries to approach him, two Muslims intercept and beat him.

On the day of his release, Malik is met by Ryad's wife and son outside the prison. They walk off together, followed by a vehicle convoy carrying Malik's new associates.



Audiard stated that in making the film he intended to "creat[e] icons, images for people who don't have images in movies, like the Arabs in France,"[3] though he also had stated that the film "has nothing to do with his vision of society," and is a work of fiction.[4]

Audiard had been thinking about making a film set in prison after he had attended a screening of one of his films in one such institution and found himself shocked by the conditions there. The film's screenplay was submitted to them by a producer and reworked by Audiard and Thomas Bidegain.[4][5]

Audiard cast Niels Arestrup as the Corsican crime boss César Luciani, after featuring him in his previous film, The Beat that My Heart Skipped. He met Tahar Rahim, who plays Malik, when they shared an automobile ride from another film set. To ensure the authenticity of the prison experience, Audiard hired former convicts as advisors and extras.[5]


Critical response

A Prophet received widespread critical acclaim. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 97% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 147 reviews, with an average score of 8.3/10, making the film a "Certified Fresh" on the website's rating system. Its critical consensus states that "Featuring an impressive star turn by newcomer Tahar Rahim, A Prophet is a French gangster film filled with arresting, immediate details." [6] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 90, based on 31 reviews, which indicates "Universal acclaim".[7]

Reception of the film after its debut screening at 2009 Cannes Film Festival at the competition was good. A Prophet was picked as the best film of the festival by a group of sixteen English-language critics and bloggers polled by the daily independent film news site indieWIRE.[8]

Karin Badt at The Huffington Post called it "refreshingly free".[4] Jonathan Romney of Screen International said that the film "works both as hard-edged, painstaking detailed social realism and as a compelling genre entertainment."[9]

Luke Davies of The Monthly criticized some of the film's stylistic methodology and content, asserting that the prophetic themes could have been stretched out, but he celebrated the film's central character and his well-executed "improbable rise from invisibility to dominance", describing "what gives [the film] such dynamic energy is the seamlessness with which this transition unfolds". Davies described the film's main achievement as conveying a character as "someone we care about and gun for," who started life on screen as a blank slate.[10]


A Prophet won the BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language and nine Césars (including Best Film, Director, Actor and Supporting Actor), in addition to prizes at both the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and the London Film Festival. It was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards.

It was the submission of France for the 82nd Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film.[11] On 2 February 2010, when Academy Award nominations were announced, A Prophet received a nomination for Best Foreign Language film. The other four films in the category were Ajami, The Milk of Sorrow and The White Ribbon, and the eventual winner, El secreto de sus ojos.[12]

A Prophet won the Grand Prix at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.[13] At the 53rd London Film Festival, it won the Best Film Award.[14][15] It won the Prix Louis Delluc 2009.[16] At the 63rd British Academy Film Awards, it won a BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language. It was nominated for 13 César Awards, tying it with three other films for the most nominations of any film in César history. It won 9 Césars at the ceremony, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.[17] The film was nominated for the Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics. The film also won London's Favourite French Film award in 2010, as well as Best Foreign Film at the 13th annual British Independent Film Awards, which were held in London at the Old Billingsgate on 5 December 2010.[18]

A Prophet was also nominated for Best International Film at the 8th Irish Film and Television Awards, an award that went to The Social Network.

In a 2016 BBC poll of 177 critics worldwide, A Prophet was voted the 85th best film since 2000.[19]

In 2010 Empire magazine ranked it at number 63 in its "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" list.[20]


On 22 January 2016, Deadline reported that Raimi is in talks to direct Sony's remake of the film, with Neal H. Moritz and Tobe Jaffe producing, and Dennis Lehane writing the script.[21] Since then, there have been no further updates.


  1. Un prophète - A Prophet. British Board of Film Classification. 16 October 2009. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  2. A Prophet (Un prophète). Box Office Mojo. 2010. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  3. "Entretien avec Jacques Audiard, réalisateur d'Un prophète". Cinemotions (in French). Archived from the original on 8 June 2010. Retrieved 8 March 2010.
  4. Badt, Karin (18 May 2009). "Cannes Favorite: Jacques Audiard's "The Prophet"". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 August 2009.
  5. Turan, Kenneth (19 May 2009). "Jacques Audiard's 'A Prophet' has a buzz building". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 August 2009.
  6. "A Prophet (Un prophete)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  7. "A Prophet Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  8. "Audiard's "Prophet" Hailed by Critics, Bloggers as Best of Cannes". IndieWire. 27 May 2009. Retrieved 21 August 2009.
  9. Romney, Jonathan (25 May 2009). "A Prophet (Un Prophète)". Screen Daily. Retrieved 21 August 2009.
  10. Davies, Luke (February 2010). "Lost Boys: Jacques Audiard's A Prophet and John Hillcoat's The Road". The Monthly.
  11. "Un prophete retenu pour les oscars", Le Figaro, 17 September 2009 (in French)
  12. "Academy Award Nominations". CNN.com. 5 March 2010.
  13. "Festival de Cannes: A Prophet". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 9 May 2009.
  14. "Winner of Best Film Award: A Prophet". bfi.org. Archived from the original on 31 October 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
  15. "French film receives London award". bbc.co.uk. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
  16. "Prix Louis Delluc : "Un prophète" sacré meilleur film 2009". Le Parisien (in French). 11 December 2009. Retrieved 11 December 2009.
  17. "2010 César Winners". César Awards. Archived from the original on 12 April 2010. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
  18. "Winners announced: 13th Moët British Independent Film Awards". The Moët British Independent Film Awards. Archived from the original on 9 December 2010. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
  19. "The 21st century's 100 greatest films". BBC. 23 August 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  20. "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema | 63. A Prophet". Empire.
  21. Fleming Jr, Mike (22 January 2016). "Sam Raimi Circles 'A Prophet', Remake Of French Crime Thriller". Deadline. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
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