So far, this year seems to be when animated films are going hard. Whether it be the newest adaptation of The Little Prince or the beautifully rendered story of Bilal, it seems that at least in this genre of film, the minds behind the screen are seeking out more diversity than ever. I’m happy to share with you all today another story that keeps up this trend with gorgeous eye-catching images and a story that will spark the curiosity of the young, while remaining poignant to the old.
As the trailer lays out, The Prophet, the film, is adapted from a series of essays under the same title. Published originally in 1923, author Kahlil Gibran’s collection of poetic prose spanned topics such as love, death, crime, pain, and time through the teachings of its narrator, Al-Mustafa. The book quickly garnered popularity, only gaining more as the years passed—by now, The Prophet has sold more than nine million copies, and has been translated into at least forty different languages. That’s impressive!
This new incarnation seeks to put the story on a more accessible level. Following what I can assume is roughly the same narrative of the original, the film still follows the teachings of Mustafa, an exiled poet who philosophizes on said previous topics. In the film, however, Mustafa has gained the companionship of two others: Kamila, a woman who takes care of Mustafa’s home, and her daughter, Almitra. Together, the three of them embark on a journey to bring Mustafa back to his home, though they must first escape the hateful gaze of the authorities who wish to silence the poet, fearing his words will incite rebellion in the people of their small Mediterranean village.
Though the trailer itself seems to be toting Liam Neeson as the film’s star—as he voices Mustafa—the real star of this film to me is Salma Hayek. Not only is she the voice of Kamila, but she’s also the film’s producer. While she is a beloved Latina actress, many may not know of Hayek’s Lebanese heritage and how much attachment she has to the story itself. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly she explains that her grandfather owned the book and The Prophet’s cover entranced her as a child. Upon rediscovering it once entering college, she reveals that revisiting Gibran’s work “was very meaningful to me, because I felt like my grandfather was teaching me about life even though he was gone”. So in addition to bringing this story to a new generation that may not have known it otherwise, she’s also sharing part of her past with the world! I love that kind of thing, and I love Hayek and her sense of artistry. It’s simply fantastic seeing a woman of color bringing a piece of another culture to the U.S.: with her star power behind it, I’m sure it will be successful!
I also adore that Quvenzhané Wallis will be taking up the role of Kamila’s precocious daughter. However, I am conflicted on the casting of Liam Neeson. I have nothing against the man’s acting, nor do I think he’ll do the role an injustice, it just seems strange that in a film that’s bringing so much diversity to the table, the voice of the film—the narrator of the book itself—is a white man instead of a man of color. It would have been so great if they had given a non-white actor (especially if a Lebanese one!) a chance to shine in this film.
As far as art direction goes, The Prophet’s twenty six chapters will be condensed down into eight individual stories, and each one will be covered by a different director; the entire project will be overseen by Roger Allers of The Lion King fame. With a beloved story such as this one, I’m excited to see all the different interpretations of Gibran’s words through artistic expression: the part at the beginning that looked like a watercolor painting especially caught my attention.
The Prophet is slated to hit American theaters in August, so if this kind of thing catches your fancy, I’d highly recommend seeing it! And, if you want to do a little reading before the film debuts, you can read the entirety of Gibran’s original collection of prose here!