Young Black Stallion
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A prequel to The Black Stallion, this 45-minute IMAX adventure begins shortly after World War II. A number of displaced North Africans are heading back to their pre-war homes. Among them, traveling in a camel caravan across the Moroccan desert, is a young girl named Neera.
When raiders threaten the procession, a kindly gentleman steers her to “safety.” Alone in the desert, Neera takes a nasty spill when her camel trips—knocking her out cold. Regaining consciousness and now camel-less, Neera wanders about the dunes in search of water, committed to finishing her journey home. When she at last comes across a trickle flowing from a boulder, she also encounters a young, well-built stallion. After some hesitancy on the horse’s part, the young girl and the steed bond. Now as traveling companions, the duo treks across the desert, eventually reaching her home only to have a truck scare Neera’s new friend away. Without physical proof, Neera’s grandfather believes her horse is imaginary.
A year later, the stallion returns, and Neera catches a glimpse of him galloping across her property. Tracking him to a nearby outcropping of rock, she reconnects. This time the horse allows her to ride him, and discovering his great speed, she becomes convinced the stallion can win an annual competition that pits Bedouin males and their mounts against each other in a cross-country race. The reward for the victor? Ownership of all the other horses raced. But for Neera there’s an additional reason to prevail. The war has forced her grandfather to sell most of his horses. Neera knows if she can triumph, her grandfather’s wealth and reputation will be restored. Since Grandpa will have nothing to do with her risky plan, Neera secretly begins to train her mount in hopes of sneaking him into the contest.
Neera and her grandfather’s reunion after the war is a joyous one. Convinced she was dead, he receives her affectionately with an immense hug. Before they're separated again, Neera, a companion and her grandfather sing a folk song together as they travel by wagon. When a wheel falls off, laughter—not anger—is the immediate response. On a lesser note, the movie sends the message that a horse can be more than a beast of burden—that it can also be a friend.
Convinced Neera’s story of a desert horse is a product of her imagination, her grandfather explains, “Sometimes in the desert the devil plays tricks.” Neera’s stallion is eventually named Shetan which means “devil.”
When Neera first arrives home, a young boy who shares the house with her grandfather nearly decks her with a stick when he mistakenly regards her as a trespasser. Marauders threaten a camel caravan (nothing explicit is shown). Neera falls off a camel and passes out. Riders tumble from their horses.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
At the annual horse race, Neera’s grandfather relaxes with other Bedouin males under a canopy. A few smoke Shisha (a flavored tobacco) with a water pipe. Grandfather drinks what apparently is some type of alcoholic beverage.
Other Negative Elements
[Spoiler Warning] Before shelling out $8.50 a ticket, families need to know that Neera enters the annual horse race against her grandfather’s wishes, and that there are no negative consequences for her rebellion. Although she apologizes, she quickly justifies her actions with an end-justifies-the-means rationale (“I’m sorry I disobeyed you, Grandpa, but he won, he won!”). Naturally, Grandpa is quick to dismiss her defiance because her victory restores wealth and status to his family. Also, there’s the issue of gambling. In reality, wagers of this kind don’t often turn out in Hollywood fashion. What would have happened if she’d lost? Gotten hurt? And more importantly, what message does it send to young viewers when acts of waywardness are rewarded materially?
It'll take longer to empty a popcorn bucket than see this entire movie. It'll also take a bit of work after the fact to talk through Neera's "well-intentioned" rebellion. But Young Black Stallion isn't so crammed with negative content that moms and dads won't be able to use it as a “teachable moment” on the issue of obedience. If you decide to take your family, follow up with a line of questioning like this: “Neera disobeyed her grandfather because she disagreed with him. What would have been a better course of action for Neera in this situation?” Then, "The movie’s all-is-well conclusion could lead some to argue that disobedience can be preferable to obedience. What does God say about that? In what rare, rare situations should a person defy God-given authority?" And, "Neera won the race without injury. But what could have happened in a situation like this?” Finally, “Neera was willing to gamble away the horse she loved. But what if she had lost? And what about the owners of the horses she competed against who had to forfeit their beloved mares? How do you think they felt? Is gambling ever an acceptable way to get something?”
Young Black Stallion is neither a must-see nor a mustn't see. Families shouldn't think of it as merely panoramic—mindless—IMAX fun, but parents using biblical principles to reinforce areas where the movie falls short may help head off some rebellious horseplay.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Biana Tamimi as Neera; Richard Romanus as Neera’s grandfather, Ben Ishak; Patrick Elyas as Neera’s friend, Aden