I still have a selection of Khalil Gibran’s books plucked out of my home library and by my bedside table over the last week. In a Dejavu moment, the next morning of getting the books, I get news from the Doha Film Institute that the second Ajyal Youth Film Festival will host the Middle East premiere of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet as its Closing Night Gala on December 6, 2014.
Considering that Khalil Gibran’s books have been on my bookshelves for years and I have only read them once, it was a surprise coincidence that I pick them up again the same week as the world premiere of the Salma Hayek-Pinault-produced film takes place.
My Literature Masters thesis is on genre transformation with a focus on books made into films. I used the case study of The English patient and for months, I was obsessed with the book and film with my Professor urging me to look into the story, the scenes, the characters and the nuances in detail in both genres. Naturally I will be doing the same with Khalil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’.
The theory part of my studies was of course difficult but I really enjoy the process of seeing a story told in two different mediums. For the adaptation of Gibran’s beloved book, the film features animated sequences by award-winning directors from across the globe, including popular Gulf animator Mohammed Saeed Harib, who also attended TIFF.
According to the information I received, the narrative framework of the film is directed by Roger Allers (The Lion King), with the throughline interwoven with eight of Gibran’s lyrical and inspiring musings on the nature of life’s issues like love, work, good and evil, death, freedom and marriage. The film is presented in eight animated chapters by renowned international artists, including Harib (Freej), Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells), Michal Socha (Chick), Joan Gratz (Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase), Nina Paley (I Heart My Cat), Joann Sfar (Gainsbourg; A Heroic Life), Bill Plympton (Mutant Aliens) and Paul and Gaeton Brizzi (Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame).
I applaud Fatma Al Remaihi, Acting CEO of the Doha Film Institute and Director of the Ajyal Youth Film Festival for bringing this film to the international audience. She said, “Gibran’s The Prophet is a work of literature that arises from our Arab culture and that resonates throughout the Middle East and indeed, around the world. We are proud to have been involved as a co-financier from the very early stages to bring this visionary work to the screen, and we are delighted to host its premiere in the Middle East during the Ajyal Youth Film Festival. For generations, people young and old have been inspired by Gibran’s lyrical poetry and I’m sure this film will only broaden the tremendous appeal of his work.”
Salma Hayek-Pinault who has Lebanese ancestry is delighted to be part of the venture. “I’ve been looking for a part to play where I could represent Arab women. This film is a love letter to this part of my heritage and so it is wonderful to be able to share it with families, children and a local Arab audience in Doha at the upcoming Ajyal Youth Film Festival in December.”
Mohammed Saeed Harib, who directs the chapter ‘On Good and Evil’ said: “Gibran’s book explores so many of the complex issues of life and I am deeply honoured to be a part of the creative team responsible for bringing his poetry to the screen and to have worked alongside such a renowned group of animators. After many years of development, it is so exciting to finally share the film with the world here in Toronto and soon at the upcoming Ajyal Youth Film Festival in Doha.”
Featuring the voices of actors Liam Neeson (The Lego Movie), Hayek-Pinault (Frida), Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), John Krasinski (Monsters University), Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) and Alfred Molina (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet boasts a score by Gabriel Yared (The English Patient), with additional music from songwriters Damien Rice, Oscar® winner Glen Hansard, and Lisa Hannigan. The score also features cello solos by Grammy® winner Yo-Yo Ma.
The Ajyal Youth Film Festival builds on the Doha Film Institute’s history of community-based programming. Ajyal invites generations to come together to discuss cinema through events that inspire creative interaction, opening up a fun, collaborative environment where young people can express themselves. The second edition of the festival will take place from December 1 to 6 at the Cultural Village Katara….watch this space for more information on the festival.