Bilal: A New Breed of Hero is a Saudi Arabian 3D animation film that had its international premiere at Cannes on Animation Day.
After its Arab world premiere at Doha's Ajyal Youth Film Festival, Bilal is the first Saudi animated film to participate in Cannes.
The film tells the story of Bilal Ibn Rabah, the Ethiopian companion of the Prophet Muhammad who converted to Islam and was freed after years of being a slave and facing tyranny and injustice on the Arabian Peninsula.
Depicting Bilal as a hero, the adventure film tells his journey through four stages of his life, from a young boy of six years to a 60-year-old man who became one of the most prominent figures in Islamic history, spreading Islam and calling for justice and equality.
Written, directed and produced by Saudi producer Ayman Jamal, Bilal’s scenario took nearly seven years to finalise, and the animation was completed in three years with a budget of $30,000,000.
"The challenge was to bring that hero to life, through self-confidence and perseverance, to the new generation," said Jamal in an interview with the Saudi Gazette.
The animation features 88 characters from Islamic history, including Abu Bakr El-Seddik, Hamza Ibn Abdelmotaleb, Omayya Bin Khalad and Saad Ibn Aby Waqas.
The film is produced by Jamal’s Dubai-based animation and visual effects studio, Barajoum Entertainment, and was achieved with state-of-the-art technology and a team of top animators who worked on internationally acclaimed films including Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, The Avengers and Harry Potter.
The movie is set for worldwide release in September 2016.
Last year, Saudi Arabia’s participation in Cannes was through Saudi director Haifa Mansour, who was invited as a jury member after she picked up an award for her acclaimed film Wadjda in the festival's newcomers category in 2013.
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