The Prince follows Olivia (Ashé Sabongui), her younger brother Jason (Bodhi Sabongui), and their Uncle Amir (Lee Majdoub) on a public bus heading to school. A xenophobic oaf hurls insults at them and tells the Middle Eastern family to “go back where they came from,” despite all three being born in the United States. Jason gets angry and wants to lash out, Amir sees such bigotry everywhere and, as a struggling actor, he must reconsider his career options, while Olivia uses this teaching moment as the inspiration for her tap recital.
“…A xenophobic oaf hurls insults at a Middle Eastern family on the bus…”
The brainchild of actress Kyra Zagorsky, perhaps best known for her role as Kara on The 100, The Prince marks her directorial debut and sophomore screenwriting effort. There are several rookie mistakes that crop up throughout the brief 13-minute runtime. The editing is chief among them, as interwoven throughout the tension on the bus is the dance routine. This does not work and only serves to undercut both elements. The recital is underwhelming and unfulfilling, as the dance itself is not given room to breathe or find its own emotional catharsis. Forcing particular hand or foot positions to align 100% with Amir’s body language during the confrontation on the bus comes across as cheesy and didactic, given how the editing freezes on those interlocking images for a second to ensure the audience gets it. That this is such an easy fix, makes it all the more disheartening; show the entirety of the dance first, then when Amir walks on stage to give Olivia flowers, flashback to everything on the bus, showing the inspiration only after the power of the routine has piqued the viewer.
Compounding the issue further is that Ashé Sabongui does not win over audience empathy whatsoever. Every bit of dialogue from her mouth is a robotic line reading, rendering the character lifeless and inert. While the dancing, within the context of the story, doesn’t work as intended, she does do well with the routine, for what it’s worth.
“…a well-intentioned story with an important message and two great performances.”
Majdoub, on the other hand, is electrifying and intense. His Amir is a smart, sweet man whose frustrations at how society treats him and his family come from an understandable place. The younger Sabongui, Jason, as the brother, is also very convincing, conveying his misplaced rage and confusion truthfully.
The Prince is a well-intentioned story with an important message and two great performances. However, ambition and purpose aren’t the only qualities to consider in a movie. As directed and edited, the two halves of the movie weaken each other and the lead actress lacks the emotional range to garner sympathy from the audience.
The Prince (2018) Directed by Kyra Zagorsky. Written by Kyra Zagorsky. Starring Lee Majdoub, Ashé Sabongui, Jason Sabongui, and Scott McGarth.