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At the age of six, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha received the first phone call of his life, informing him of his father's sudden death and his birthright to become Tsar of Bulgaria. Only three years later, the nine-year-old king was overthrown by communist dissenters and he and his family were exiled from the country. Fifty years passed before the communist regime collapsed and Simeon was allowed to return home. Crowds cheered, 'We want our King!', even though the title no longer existed. Simeon created a new political party and won a landslide majority to become the Prime Minister of Bulgaria in 2001. But it was a difficult period of transition for a country with eighty per cent unemployment. In four years, Simeon would find himself in a sort of exile again: this time from the favor of the nation that had celebrated his return.Written by
The Boy Who Was a King presents an immensely interesting subject: a 7-year old Bulgarian Prince who becomes King following the sudden death of his father. The family is exiled during WWII and, 50 years later, the boy king returns to Bulgaria to become Prime Minister in a landslide election.
Sadly, this film doesn't teach the audience much beyond that.
Among its primary flaws, the film has no narrator. King Simeon himself, BBC interviewers, and various other eclectic Bulgarians each tell pieces of a tale that together do little to create a cohesive story.
Paounov certainly has a gift for finding unique and interesting characters who, throughout the film, give their opinions on the king and what he means to them (and what he doesn't). These vignettes on their own would have made for fascinating documentary, as some of these characters are worthy of having their own stories told. However, these tales do nothing to elucidate the film's subject, leaving the viewer confused and frustrated as to their purpose. Most are unnecessarily long and in a few cases, the payoff isn't worth the wait.
In all, we learn nothing of the context in which the king returns to his country, his rise to political power, or his time in office. Wikipedia filled in the many interesting blanks and political and economic context that should have been the foundation for this film.
There are hints of strength - an interesting premise and spectacular archival footage of the boy as prince, king, and in exile. But without a voice, a cohesive story and extraneous material, this documentary fails to deliver on its fundamental mission.
It's a shame to know there is something very special in the story that's not been told.
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