What do the actors Kevin Kline, Samuel Jackson, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Larry David have in common? All of them have played chess teachers on the big screen. This impressive cast is now joined by Gérard Dépardieu who excels in the French production Fahim. The movie has beenreleased in the German speaking area and Belgium will come to a few more countries in 2020. It has not found a UK distributor in spite of parallels with the recent story of Shreyas Royal, whose outstanding chess talent secured his family a permit to stay in the UK. Thanks to a grant from Chess in Schools and Communities and the production company Waiting for Cinéma, we have secured two special screenings during the London Chess Conference at a cinema hall, which is less than five minutes away.
Everybody who makes a living as a chess teacher or coach should see Fahim. It tells the true story of a boy who escapes from Bangladesh with his father, partly because of the politically active father fearing persecution, partly for the talented kid to find a grandmaster to train him. They arrive in France, and while the procedures for asylum are going down the drain, the boy connects with a local chess club. A grandmaster they don´t find there, but they find Sylvain, a slightly misanthropic chess fanatic who trains a few local kids and immediately recognizes the enormous talent that just walked through his door.
Sylvain is based on the junior coach Xavier Parmentier who did not live to see Dépardieu as himself, as he died from a brain tumour in 2016. The real Fahim Mohammad represented France in international youth competitions and is now a university student. It is not the fault of the movie makers that some online synopses claim that Fahim became world junior champion. Chess is represented correctly except for the excusable laying down of the king as resignation instead of the usual handshake. The world of junior chess is depicted amiably, and the French Federation is getting an image boost. The well-written movie, based on the book Le Roi Clandestin (2014), has humorous moments as well as the right dose of suspense. Our conference night this year will be a movie night. Join in!
Saturday, 30 Nov, 19.15 and 21.15 Lyric Hammersmith, 149 Hammersmith Road, 107 minutes, French with English subtitles