By Sohila El Saadany
Courage, determination and kindness are all characteristics of Bilal bin Rabah. In the new feature animation movie Bilal, audiences around the world will delve deep into the life of this remarkable man.
Destination spoke to Jeddah’s own Ayman Jamal, the creator and executive producer of the film. Bilal shows the life of one of the most prominent people in the history of Africa (Axum Empire) and the Arab World at the time. Bilal is a young boy with a big dream of achieving greatness. He is unfortunately snatched from his family in Ethiopia and forced into the chains of slavery. He never surrenders though, and adheres to his faith in God to overcome all obstacles until he becomes the great man we now know and the nation’s first mu’aden.
The movie is owned and produced by Barajoun Entertainment in Dubai.
Jamal believes a good movie is the outcome of collaborative efforts from the entire team that works in every small detail that you see on the big screen. As he says, “To me filmmaking is more than a script. There are a lot of scripts out there, but for a movie to happen, it requires so much more. For example, someone who can polish the script, make it suitable for production and then actually produce it.” The script was the collective work of Jamal himself along with Yaseen Kamel and was developed by Alex Kronemer and Michael Wolfe.
When asked why he chose the character of Bilal particularly, he replied, “Our aim was to show a hero from this region and reflect on how he is a global one. The movie carries the message of a slave who became a master, since at the end Omar bin Al Khatab the ruler of his time was calling him Sayidna Bilal. I was amazed by his story and the equality that he was not only calling for, but achieved it as well.”
The movie depicts the life journey of Bilal with all its action and drama throughout his life. It is a movie that will take young adults on an epic trip of bravery. The story depicts not only Bilal’s character, but also his entire culture and the prevalent mindset during his time; one that he was able to challenge and eventually changed.
Jamal explains, “To raise one’s voice against oppression and injustice even when all odds are stacked against you. These sentiments are universal and transcend race, language and culture.”
Besides the clear message of equality the movie professes, it also aspires to reveal the nature of a hero. To become a great person, one must fight injustice, serve and protect his family along with those in need and to also make sure he never inflicts pain on others. Jamal elaborates how Bilal is a hero in that sense but is different from the physical stereotype of what heroes look like. He explains, “Usually most heroes are very strong and muscular or so, but Bilal’s real power was his voice. Not only because he was known for his beautiful voice which he used in calling to prayer, but because he had a voice that said no to injustice.”
The movie, which combines action, adventure and drama, will be PG or PG-13 depending on the rating. Jamal exclaims, “Children or young adults today need more action and drama to a story rather than just colorful animation. There has got to be inspiration.” Not only does the movie call for fairness, it also sheds light on family ties, especially sibling relationships that withstand time and hardships, as it features Bilal’s endeavors to protect his sister.
Jamal also addresses the rumors of DreamWorks being a part of the project, which were posted on Facebook. He explains, “Bilal is fully produced by Dubai-based production house, Barajoun Entertainment. Having said that, DreamWorks are the pioneer of this industry and I personally got inspired by many of their movies.”
Bilal is expected to be released by the end of this year.