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Animated Film "Bilal," Inspired by Ethiopian Slave Who Became "Voice of Islam" Gets US Release

The film staring Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, hits theaters on February 2.

Back in 2016, we reported on the animated film Bilal which tells the thousand-year-old story of the freed Ethiopian slave, Bilal Ibn Rabah, who went on to become Islam's first muezzin and a close adviser to the Prophet Muhammad. Nearly two years after its release, the film is finally making its way over to the States.


The movie, written by Ayman Jamal, stars actors Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jacob Latimore, Ian McShane and China Anne McClain who all voice main characters in the film, which is the first feature film by Dubai-based production company Barajoun Entertainment.

Here's a recap of the film, via Shadow and Act:

"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."

The film took a total of eight years and a team of around 250 animators to complete, reports Shadow and Act.

"My inspiration was my kid, and myself," says Jamal. "When I watched movies like Braveheart or Malcolm X when I was in my late 20s and early 30s, I was inspired. Why wasn't I inspired when I was 10, I asked myself? I asked my 5-year-old son what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said: 'Superman'. I love Superman, but I wish he'd said something possible, and I wanted to create this. To inspire kids with a real human superhero that they can aspire to. Superman is the reason I did this. I had to save my kid."

He also spoke more about the tedious process behind the film's creation.

"We've paid serious attention to detail. We hired 11 researchers, including doctors from universities, to research the history of the story, and we've taken all the characters' descriptions from at least 17 different historical sources. We hired two forensic scientists to model the characters based on these descriptions and what we know about the tribes of the time. It took six months to design each character and we're really proud of it. We're showing the characters exactly as described in historical texts, not just using our imagination. We've spent 5,000 hours of research to develop clothes and props too."

Judging from the trailer, it certainly appears as thought the filmmaker's stringent efforts paid off. Bilal hits theaters in the US on Feb 2, watch the newest trailer for the film below, and check out some cast interviews underneath.

News Brief

The Trailer for Faraday Okoro's Tribeca Film 'Nigerian Prince' Is Here

The film is due to hit U.S. theaters October 19.

The trailer for Nigerian filmmaker Faraday Okoro's debut feature Nigerian Prince is here, Shadow and Act reports.

We're a month away from the film landing in U.S. theaters and On-Demand since the film got acquired by Vertical Entertainment.

Revisit the synopsis below.

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(From left to right) Stéphane Bak and Marc Zinga in 'The Mercy of the Jungle.' Photo courtesy of TIFF.

Congolese Actor Stéphane Bak on His Intense Experience Shooting 'The Mercy of the Jungle' In Uganda

We catch up with the actor after the film made its North American premiere at TIFF.

When actor Stéphane Bak first got the script for The Mercy of the Jungle (La Miséricorde de la Jungle), he knew there was one person he had to consult: his father. "My dad did school me about this," he says. While Bak was born and raised in France, his parents had emigrated from what was then Zaire in the 1980s—before the events of the movie, and not exactly in the same area, but close enough to be able to pass on firsthand knowledge of the simmering ethnic tensions that underpin the action.

The story takes place in 1998, just after the outbreak of the Second Congo War—which came hot on the heels of the First Congo War. Two Rwandan soldiers find themselves separated from their company and have to make a harrowing trek through the jungle to link back up with their regiment. Bak plays Private Faustin, the young recruit hunting Hutu rebels to avenge his murdered family, a foil to Marc Zinga's seasoned Sergeant Xavier. As a Congolese militia swarms the area, and it becomes increasingly difficult to tell enemies from friends, the two are forced off the road and into the thick vegetation.

Their journey is physically difficult, but the jungle also nurtures them, providing food, water, and shelter. "The title is very explicit in a way," says Bak. It is the human beings they encounter, from rival soldiers and militiamen to the hostile security forces guarding illegal gold mining operations, who bring sudden danger and violence. The challenges are conveyed as much through the actors' physicality as through the minimal dialogue. As for the strain on his face, Bak says it was all real. "To be honest, it was very difficult," he says of the shoot, which took him 25 days. "I had to learn my accent in two weeks." Prior to commencing, there was training with the Ugandan army for realism. Due to the ongoing conflicts in the DRC, the movie itself was shot in Uganda.

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This EP Blends the Afro-Brazilian Rhythms of Bahia With Bass Music

Get into Telefunksoul and Felipe Pomar's Ré_Con Ba$$ EP.

Brazilian producers Felipe Pomar (of TrapFunk & Alivio) and Telefunksoul come through with a dizzyingly energetic EP in the form of Ré_Con Ba$$.

Telefunksoul, who happens to be one of the main promoters of Bahia Bass music, came up with the concept of exploring the rhythms coming out of Recôncavo of Bahia and showing how they can fit into bass music.

Through the 7-track Ré_Con Ba$$ EP, him and Pomar mold and transform the diverse music of Bahia, fusing its rhythms with afrobeat, future house, deep house and much more.

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