Bilal: A New Breed of Hero brings Emirati storytelling to animation

Animation, as have all movies and TV shows in the past few decades, has had to evolve its mindset in order to include more diverse voices and more diverse stories. Campaigns like #OscarsSoWhite have tackled more live-action fare, but with this year’s Coco (the incredibly successful Mexico-set Day of the Dead Disney film) and last year’s Moana (a pan-Polynesian island adventure), animation is starting to pick up on what the rest of the industry is moving towards. No film is more interesting in that regard than the upcoming Bilal: A New Breed of Hero, the first-ever animated feature from the United Arab Emirates.

Emirati-produced films are few and far between, with almost all coming out of Dubai. Bilal is no different, but its groundbreaking designation as the first animation from the culture, representing the culture’s history, is potent.

Co-directed by Khurram H. Alavi and Ayman Jamal, this production spins a swords-and-sandals take on the life of Bilal ibn Rabah (voiced by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jacob Latimore, and Andre Robinson at various stages of his life), a former slave who was one of the first convert to Islam under the tutelage of Muhammad. Religious animations aren’t new to anyone that’s ever seen Prince of Egypt or a singing Christian vegetable, but this PG-13 story isn’t for kids – even if it may initially seem like it.

Continue: Syfy Wire