popular

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.

Photos
"The Astral." Photo by Mikael Owunna.

This Photo Series Is a Much-Needed Counter to Violent Images of the Black Body

"Infinite Essence" is Nigerian-American photographer Mikael Owunna's response to the one-dimensional narrative we tend to see of the black body.

This beautiful, thought-provoking photo series affirms what we already know—that the black body is magical, no matter what odds are against us.

Nigerian-American photographer, Mikael Owunna, touched base with OkayAfrica to share his new photo series, Infinite Essence. The series is Owunna's response to America's issue of police brutality, like the murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile and Walter Scott, and the viral and violent images of the dead black body we've seen as a result.

"It has become frighteningly routine to turn on the television or log onto Facebook and see a video or image of a black person either dead or dying, like images of Africans dying in the Mediterranean," Owunna says.

"With this series, I work to counter these one-dimensional narratives of the black body as a site of death and destruction with imagery capturing what I see in my friends, family and community—love, joy, and ultimately, magic."

Owunna worked on Infinite Essence for the past year, and says his creative process began with a feeling. As he notes further, it's was a process of trial and error.

"I was beginning to explore my own spirituality and journey and learning about how black, queer and trans people in particular were respected for their magical abilities in many pre-colonial African societies. I was meditating on this idea of magic and how I can capture that in my work, harkening back to the 'Final Fantasy' video games and anime series I grew up on. How could I capture all of this? I did two pretty disastrous test shoots using long exposures and lights, that did nothing for me artistically.

It had none of the feeling I was looking for. So I went back to the drawing board. I pulled up Google image search results of magic in Final Fantasy and kept scrolling and scrolling and staring at images that had that emotional tug, that spiritual capture of magic and transcendence that I so wanted to bring into the work. As I was staring at the works, a voice in my head told me glow in the dark paints, and then from looking at that I found the world of UV photography. As soon as I saw some sample works in that space, I knew that was the direction the project would go and it was all steam ahead."

Shooting this series was the first time Owunna collaborated with makeup artists Karla Grifith-Burns and Davone Goins to bring his vision to life. "It was powerful and inspirational and brought so much structure to my feeling and thought," he says.

Owunna settled on the name of his series after reading about Odinani, the Igbo traditional belief system.

"Seeking to understand the basics of that, I came across brilliant writing by Chinua Achebe wherein he used the phrase 'infinite essence' and that clicked everything around it," he says. "When I can name something, it brings it to life in my head in stunning color."

Click through the slideshow below view Owunna's series, Infinite Essence. Read his artist statement for the project, where he speaks more in depth of Achebe's work on infinite essence here. The series is also on display at Owunna's solo exhibition at Montréal's Never Apart Gallery from today until April 7, 2018.

"The Astral." Photo by Mikael Owunna.

Top Carousel

5 Nigerian Hyper-Realist Artists You Should Know

Here are 5 Nigerian hyper-realist artists whose work leaves us astonished.

It takes a special, perhaps, preternatural gift to be able to produce works of art that look so real they make viewers second-guess their eyesight.

Several African artists are amongst this talented bunch of hyper-realist artists, whose craftsmanship and stringent attention to detail produce some of the most utterly mind-blowing works that we've had the pleasure of seeing.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo still via "OkayAfrica Presents: Beeraha Minnesota."

This Somali Farmer Wants To Harvest Her Culture in America's Midwest

Naima Dhore is working to introduce subsistence farming to the Somali community in Minnesota.

Naima Dhore sits on her couch staring at her cellphone. Her son, Warsame, 6, rolls around on the carpet close by chattering about his day.

She's watching an old "PBS Newshour" video about Cuba's leadership in organic farming. And although she rarely denies her son full attention, she makes it clear the video is too important to ignore right now.

Dhore and her husband, Fagas Salah, are farmers from Somalia now living in Minnesota. They're in the early stage of a grand family experiment: They want to transplant some of Somali culture to a rural part of the upper Midwest, and see some important lessons in Cuban-style agriculture.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.