Arab Times

‘Bilal’ to launch from Ajyal Youth Festival

1st ME animation feature


LOS ANGELES, Nov 11, (RTRS): The Doha Film Institute’s Ajyal Youth Festival has secured the world premiere of high-profile Middle Eastern action adventure toon “Bilal,” inspired by the real-life story of Bilal Ibn Rabah, an African slave who became one of the most illustriou­s names in Islamic history.

Touted as the first CG-animated feature to be fully funded and produced in the Gulf, “Bilal” features Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (“Game of Thrones”) and child actor Andre Robinson (“Despicable Me 2”) as voice talents.

Robinson and AkinnouyeA­gbaje, who voiced the young and adult Bilal respective­ly, will be in attendance for the Doha launch of the toon which involved creative talents from 22 countries and is expected to raise the bar for ani- mation production in the region.

Co-directed by Khurram H. Alavi and Ayman Jamal, “Bilali” was made with funding from the Doha Film Institute and produced by Dubai-based Barajoun Studios. Possibly the first American to convert to Islam, Bilal Ibn Rabah was a slave who fought for his freedom. “Bilal” will be the closer of the Ajyal fest on Dec 5.

Ajyal’s previously announced opener is Oscar-nommed Palestinia­n director Hany AbuAssad’s buzz pic “The Idol,” about how Palestinia­n pop singer Mohammed Assaf went from being a kid in a refugee camp in Gaza to winning the second season of “Arab Idol” in 2013. “The Idol” will launch into the Middle East launch from the fest, which is youth-oriented but broad in scope, on November 29 with Abu-Assad and Assaf attending. They will both also hold an onstage conversati­on.

The third edition of the fest, which is conceptual­ly similar to Italy’s Giffoni youth fest and has more than 500 hundred kids and adolescent­s as jurors, will also feature the Middle East premiere of Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur,” Studio Ghibli’s “When Marnie Was There,” and also a special screening of locally produced animated short “Hero and the Message,” about a Qatari brother and sister who travel back in time to witness the founding events of the State of Qatar in the 19th century.

Other standout pics launching from Ajyal into the Middle East include Jafar Panahi’s “Taxi,” which won this year’s Berlin Golden Bear; Danis Tanovic’s “Tigers.”

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