It's a rare event for a country like Lebanon to host the world premiere of a film, but on Monday the press was invited to a special pre-screeing of the new animated adaptation of Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet."

The film was co-produced by actress Salma Hayek who says the project was a "labor of love that helped her explore her relationship with her late Lebanese grandfather, who adored the book that inspired it," according to Reuters.

The animated film, which draws on the 1923 book by Lebanese-born writer Kahlil Gibran, tells the story of Almitra, a headstrong girl who forms a friendship with imprisoned poet Mustafa. Hayek does the voiceover for Almitra's mother, Kamila.

Creating a narrative to knit Gibran’s beautifully written words into a cohesive tale, director Roger Allers successfully manages to guide viewers along an emotional and spiritual journey. The narrative of the film plays out between vignettes of Gibran’s poetry accompanied by music and transitioning animation styles, combining to create a cohesive tale of chasing freedom.



(Image via idahostatesman.com)

Bringing together a slew of international animators, Hayek (producer/voice of Kamila) and Allers (writer and director) endeavored to emphasize the universality of Gibran’s well-known themes while keeping the heart of the film in its Lebanese roots. Both Hayek and Allers highlighted their very personal commitment and connection to the film during a press conference following the screening on Monday.

Allers explained that he first read “The Prophet” at the age of 19 and considered it to be a spiritual experience. Hayek referred to the project as “a love letter” to her heritage, "I don't speak Arabic [well] but I was raised Lebanese. I was raised my whole life Lebanese. And as you know, we are always raised with the pride of brotherhood,” she said.

Nine different directors worked on the film under the guidance of Allers. Notable regional talent involved with the production included Iranian-French author and director Marjane Satrapi (“Persepolis”), Emirati animator Mohammed Saeed Harib (“Freej”) and French-Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared (“Cold Mountain,” “The Lives of Others”). As Hayek pointed out, much of the funding from the project also came from the Middle East from sources such as The Doha Film Institute, Participant Media, MyGroup Lebanon, FFA Private Bank, JRW Entertainment and Code Red Productions.

Showcasing a range of artistic and creative styles merged with a beautifully composed soundtrack by Yared, the film serves as a fitting tribute to Gibran’s classic text. Allers and Hayek hope that fans of Gibran will enjoy the adaption and that the film will bring The Prophet’s words to life for a whole new generation.

The film opens everywhere in Lebanon on April 30. The American premiere is set for August 7.

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