A thousand years ago, one boy with a dream of becoming a great warrior is abducted with his sister and taken to a land far away from home. Thrown into a world where greed and injustice rule all, Bilal finds the courage to raise his voice and make a change. Inspired by true events, this is a story of a real hero who earned his remembrance in time and history.
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Bilal (voice)), Ian McShane (Umayya (voice)), China Anne McClain (Ghufaira (Teen) (voice)), Thomas Ian Nicholas (Saad (voice)), Michael Gross (Okba (voice)), Cynthia Kaye McWilliams (Ghufaira / Hamama (voice)), Jacob Latimore (Bilal (Teen) (voice)), Fred Tatasciore (Charlatan Priest (voice)), Jon Curry (Soheib (voice)), Mick Wingert (Safwan (voice)), Dave B. Mitchell (Hamza (voice)), Al Rodrigo (Abu Al-Hakam (voice)), Andre Robinson (Bilal (Kid) (voice)), Sage Ryan (Safwan (Teen) (voice)), Quinton Flynn (Additional Voices (voice)), Mark Rolston (Additional Voices (voice)), John Eric Bentley (Additional Voices (voice)), Keythe Farley (Additional Voices (voice)), Sherrie Jackson (Additional Voices (voice)), Garth Wynne-Jones (Additional Voices (voice))
Monika Bacardi (executive producer), Patricia Heneine (associate producer), Andrea Iervolino (executive producer), Haider Iqbal (line producer), Ayman Jamal (producer), Arif Jilani (executive producer), Gene Lim (executive producer), Carla Polkinhorn (co-producer)
One of the most interesting aspects of movie reviewing is looking behind the screen at the provenance of a project, and with Dubai's first ever CGI animation, BILAL, the story behind this 1400-year-old animation saga is truly gripping. Cannes 69th Film Festival is the perfect venue for this, where it will screen shortly. The cast includes excellent actors Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (who played the yacht assassination target for Matt Damon in BOURNE IDENTITY), and Ian McShane from HBO's "Game of Thrones" TV series, also PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.
Eponymous main character Bilal is actually based on a historic figure, a revered warrior, named Bilal bin Rabah. And who was he? "One of the most trusted companions of the Prophet Mohammed," according to exhaustive research done by the film's makers via Saudi-informed "forensic historians." What makes this film interesting is that you don't necessarily have to know the backstory to appreciate the master-level craftsmanship on the CGI in BILAL. In fact, this project pays off the promise that 'reality begins at 30 million polygons' as coined by animation forefather Alvy Ray Smith, and really brings home the notion that this technology now has a life of its own as this fantastic tool available all over the world for people to tell make epic explorations.
When you watch this film, you see top drawer animation with a sincere message of "faith, hope and self-discovery inspired by the real life story," as described by the filmmakers.
American actor Jacob Latimore is teenage BILAL. According to Kidzworld, a portal for young actors, this Milwaukee native grew up with a love of Motown and singular gifts as a musician early on with a hit called "Superstar." Which means he has the perfect voice control as a voice actor, not to mention his credits include roles in 2014's RIDE ALONG (Kevin Hart, Ice Cube) and THE MAZE RUNNER, as well as a 2010 credit for VANISHING ON 7TH STREET. Over the course of this spirited and engaging film, Bilal's character will age from 6 to 60 years old, and the intricate animation's high-dollar production values make it a pleasure to sit through.
This is a multi-talent collaboration, as mentioned, with clever choices such as Atil Örvarsson, an Icelandic composer, to did the music. Örvarsson said he tried to "combine the archaelogical, historical nature of the story and make it accessible for an international audience. We used old instruments from the region and combined it with modern electronically synthesised music, we created themes for some of the characters and created a unique, other worldly sound for the witch doctor." Project point-person Jamal nailed the complexity of producing a movie of this scope in CGI, especially when the Dubai creative climate is more familiar with shorter projects. "The industry here is based on short movies and originally we wanted to work with an animation studio but we found there was no animation or CGI studio in the MENA region so we had to start the studio ourselves to make BILAL and that's how we established Dubai-based Barajoun Studios." The film itself was funded by individual investors from the Gulf Region, including Saudi Arabia with the Doha Film Institute. Expect BILAL to be on the radar this year, as Variety, Indiewire, Cartoon Brew, and Animation News have all tracked its progress thus far. Let's hope this film has the harmonizing effect as intended, because the animation is truly pixel-perfect. BILAL will screen this week at Cannes 69th International Film Festival, see schedule here for details.
Based on a true story of one man rising up in a nation of corrupt merchants, leaders, charlatans and poets and preaching justice, equality and the notion of one community under one God. A man who inspired many like Bilal that no one is superior to you and many like the Lord of Merchants to free bonded slaves.
Bilal: A Legend Breaks Free ((working title)) • Slave War (South Korea) • Bilal: A Lenda (Portugal) • Билал: Новое поколение героев (Russia) • Bilal (USA (working title)) • BILAL: Chien Binh Sa Mac (Vietnam (working title))
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