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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.

Interview
Image supplied.

Interview: How Stogie T’s ‘Freestyle Friday’ Became a TV Show

Freestyle Friday started as lockdown content but is now a fully-fledged TV show on Channel O. In this interview, Stogie T breaks down why the show is revolutionary and talks about venturing into media.

When South Africa was put under a hard lockdown in 2020, Stogie T started Freestyle Friday to "make SA rap again." Freestyle Friday, hosted on Instagram, saw a different cohort of rappers each rap over the same beat picked by the veteran rapper. From niche and emerging rappers to some of the most notable names in South African hip-hop—the likes of AKA, Focalistic, Ginger Trill and several others all participated.

In the last few weeks, however, Freestyle Friday has found its way to cable TV. The show airs every Friday on Channel O, one of the continent's longest-running music TV channels. Freestyle Friday as a TV programme isn't just about freestyles, it's about the art of rapping and the music business, particularly SA hip-hop. Guests range from lyricists to record executives and other personalities aligned with the scene—Ninel Musson and Ms Cosmo for instance.

But Freestyle Friday is only the first media product Stogie T is working on as he is in the process of starting a podcast network, a venture in which he is collaborating with Culture Capital. In the Q&A below, Stogie T breaks down the relationship with Culture Capital, how the show moved from the internet to TV, why it's a revolutionary idea, touches on his venture into media and his future plans.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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