Set out to make a pertinent case for the much contemned but still prevailing racism in modern-day America, Service for the King could only dream about being the brilliant political satire it intended to be. In an attempt to do too much in too little time, it remained an incomplete work in the end with sundry loose ends and questions that needed to be answered. The mood of the film swoons between mindless comedy and overdone narrative tropes (like the rap song), which further compromised the storytelling.

The short film starts in a courtroom, where we see the case of PT The Gospelspitter v/s The State; the charge on PT The Gospelspitter is ‘Service for the King’. Had it not been for the archived footage of George Floyd’s murder and the following protests, the audience would have never been able to draw the parallel between the two and figured out the central theme of the plot. Only when you see those Floyd news case visuals on screen, do you realize that the film is a protest and derision to condemn the stand of the state in the whole George Floyd incident.

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For those of you who don’t know, George Floyd was a 46-year-old man who died in the middle of an ongoing arrest for counterfeiting a $20 bill (as claimed by the convenience store where he went to buy cigarettes). Floyd was mishandled by the Minneapolis Police officers and was barbarically pinned down to the ground, till he lost consciousness and eventually died. Racism has always been a prevalent and unabashed issue in America, and several films have been made addressing this issue.

service for the king

The introduction to the case (reminder: PT The Gospelspitter v/s The State for the charge ‘Service for the King’) was followed by the arrival of the judge Emcee N.I.C.E. who hears the accused. The arguments (if I may call them) were made by the accused in a rap song. We, as the audience, realize that the judge is in the favor of the accused as he continues to rap the same tune and same lyrics. At this point, the District Attorney who in her own words ‘felt insulted’, was exasperated with anger. So when the judge issues a ruling, which was not in adherence to ‘The State’, she orders the judge to be arrested and the accused to be held and prosecuted.

Hilariously enough, the judge’s ruling (which is considered the most determinant) is dismissed by the DA who is obviously being controlled by some higher authority. The DA’s body language is also suggestive of the power dynamics she holds in the court of law, which is visibly beneath that of a judge. Interestingly, all central characters are African-Americans. Maybe the filmmakers didn’t want to indulge and make a direct, visible statement. But more importantly, it also suggests that regardless of the race, if any figure of authority takes a judgment call against the state, they will be penalized. In this case, the DA is also of the same race who decides against the Gospelspitter, which makes a larger statement about American politics and how the ‘law-abiding’, ‘justified’ citizens are but only pawns in the hands of the law.

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The title ‘Service for the King’ is a borrowed phrase that is a gospel command from the Bible; it means that the King or the Lord is above all, and we should always revere him and his commandments and abide by them at all costs. The phrase, obviously, is used satirically against the government in the film. Also, later on in the film, the climax states the consequences when you go against the State. PT-The Gospelspitter is named so, as he supposedly ‘spitted’ (disregarded) on the Gospel truth (state).

Despite the depth of these themes, the narrative was abhorrently wrong and illogically flawed. In addition to the character arcs being underdeveloped, the rap song element felt forced. In an effort to do too much, the filmmakers ended up doing nothing. Without the Floyd news clippings, the story makes no sense at all. The characters have no distinct traits that the film could have leaned upon. Things just happen in a bizarre fashion while you are frantically trying to interpret the meaning, till you see the newspaper clippings. A moment after, things are back to bizarre happenings again. To sum up, I’d say that the SfTK was a genuine effort that was ravaged due to poor planning and abysmal execution.


SfTK (Service for The King) Links: IMDb

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