BILAL: A NEW BREED OF HERO (2015)
Featuring the voices of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ian McShane, China Anne McClain, Jacob Latimore, Mick Wingert, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Michael Gross, Cynthia Kaye McWilliams, Jon Curry, Sage Ryan, Andre Robinson and Dave B. Mitchell.
Screenplay by Khurram H. Alavi, Alex Kronemer, Michael Wolfe and Nareg Kalenderian.
Directed by Khurram H. Alavi.
Distributed by Barajoun Entertainment. 114 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Barajoun Entertainment (based in Dubai, UAE) has created a beautifully animated, highly detailed film with an epic story that is described as “one of history’s oldest accounts of humanity’s struggle for equality and freedom.” Bilal is based on the life of Bilal Ibn Rabah (580-640 AD), considered to be the first Muezzin to call the Muslim people to prayer.
Bilal and his sister, Ghufaira, are born free, living with their single mother in a small, but apparently happy home, where the children are allowed to dream and play. He has been raised to believe that “a house and a sword cannot make a man great; being a great man means living without chains.”
Soon after the story’s start, the small village is destroyed by men on horseback and the children are taken from their mother and delivered into a life of slavery. They live in the time of idolatry, where idols are peddled by merchants to pray for the people’s wants, needs and desires.
Held captive by his master Umayya, and his cruel and vindictive son Safwan, Bilal begins to lose hope, holding on to the words of his mother about the chains of men – not physical chains, but the chains of superstition and fear. He proves himself to be a worthy protector of his sister, even in this captive environment, which causes Safwan embarrassment and leads to further cruelty.
Over time, and after beatings, Bilal learns to keep his head down and stays out of the attention of his master and son. Then one day, in the town square, he stops a small, hungry boy from stealing from an idol’s riches. He is noticed by a kind, well-spoken man who inspires Bilal by reminding him that he was not born a slave, that no one is born a slave and reminds him that “great men are those who have the will to seek their own destiny.” He talks to Bilal about his belief in one god and gives Bilal hope that there is a world outside of his captivity. He gives Bilal hope.
Bilal is on the lengthy side for an animated film with a runtime of 1 hour 47 minutes, but the animation is captivating in its details. The epic battle scene with flying arrows is worth the wait and the story held my attention throughout.
Every culture has their stories that when woven together create their cultural history. As Americans, many of us have a diverse background and family history that expose us to a variety of stories. Although the story of Bilal has been part of the Middle Eastern and Muslim cultural story, it is not a story that many Americans have had the opportunity to hear.
I hope that America takes the opportunity to watch this visually stimulating glimpse into a culture that is part of the human story – a story that seeks to show people as equals and to look at one another without discrimination. We could all use a reminder that we are all not as different from one another as we so often believe.
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 31, 2018.