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Life Arts    H4'ed 9/29/15

Gibran's "Prophet" as 'Toon: An Enchanted Delight

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The animated feature film, The Prophet, was an unexpected meditative delight for the eyes and the soul -- Fantasia meets Rumi, with a bit of Yellow Submarine sprinkled on top.


(Image by By Tomm Moore for the 'On Love' segment of 'The Prophet')   Details   DMCA

I was first introduced to Kahlil Gibran's masterpiece in the sixties, appropriately enough via a Comparative Religion class. My classmate Paula (my skydiving high school friend featured in Turning 60: Desperately Seeking Something) was reading it. After thumbing through hers, I quickly obtained my own copy, which I still treasure.


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Gibran's The Prophet has been in print since 1923, and has been translated into 40 languages. Producer Salma Hayek notes that it "has sold more than 100 million copies around the world." The only other poets whose works have sold more than the Lebanese mystic are Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.

The Prophet was a favorite of Elvis Presley, who wrote copious notes in the margins of his own edition, and often gave away copies.

Elvis' handwritten notes in his copy of
Elvis' handwritten notes in his copy of 'The Prophet'
(Image by Copyrighted photo, courtesy Larry Geller)
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For Hayek, who is of Lebanese descent, producing the film was clearly a labor of love. She also voices Kamila, Almitra's mother.

Salma Hayek (cropped)
Salma Hayek (cropped)
(Image by Tabercil (via Flickr))
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Still from
Still from 'The Prophet' with Almitra and Kamila
(Image by The Prophet movie)
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Liam Neeson provides the voice for the poet, Mustafa. Quvenzhane Wallis (Almitra), John Krasinski (Halim), and Frank Langella (Pasha) also star in this version, written and directed by Roger Allers (The Lion King.)

Still from
Still from 'The Prophet' with Mustafa and Almitra
(Image by The Prophet movie)
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Alfred Molina, who portrayed Diego Rivera opposite Hayek in the title role in "Frida," provides the voice for Sergeant.

For Gibran fans, it might be hard to imagine how an animated feature could do justice to his words. You might just have to reserve judgement until you see this masterpiece. (You can find a theater here.)


(Image by The Prophet movie)   Details   DMCA

Eight of the short, poetic chapters of the book are illustrated in dream-like imagery as the poet, Mustafa, recites the words. The decision to use eight different animation masters with a variety of styles was brilliant. Not only did it obviously save time in production, more importantly the wide range of style infuses the film with a spicy variety of visual texture, enriching Gibran's words with an added dimension.

One of my favorite animators, Nina Paley, (Sita Sings the Blues) brilliantly directed and executed the segment, On Children, which includes the words well known to all Gibran fans, You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

By Nina Paley for the
By Nina Paley for the 'On Children' segment of 'The Prophet'
(Image by segment of 'The Prophet')
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Joan Gratz, pioneer of the clay painting animation technique, directed the On Work segment:

By Joan Gratz for the
By Joan Gratz for the 'On Work' segment of 'The Prophet'
(Image by Gibran's 'The Prophet' movie)
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Award-winning cartoonist and animator Bill Plympton directed the On Eating and Drinking segment:

By Bill Plympton  for the
By Bill Plympton for the 'On Eating and Drinking' segment of 'The Prophet'
(Image by Gibran's 'The Prophet' movie)
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Paley, Gratz and Plympton are the three Americans in the international group of eight animators.

Michal Socha (Poland) directed On Freedom.

By Michal Socha  for the
By Michal Socha for the 'On Freedom' segment of 'The Prophet'
(Image by Gibran's 'The Prophet' movie)
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Joann Sfar (France) directed On Marriage.
By Joann Sfar for the
By Joann Sfar for the 'On Marriage' segment of 'The Prophet'
(Image by Gibran's 'The Prophet' movie)
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Tomm Moore (Ireland) directed On Love.

By Tomm Moore for the
By Tomm Moore for the 'On Love' segment of 'The Prophet'
(Image by Gibran's 'The Prophet')
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Mohammed Saeed Harib (Dubai/France) directed On Good and Evil.

By Mohammed Saeed Harib  for the
By Mohammed Saeed Harib for the 'On Good and Evil' segment of 'The Prophet'
(Image by Gibran's 'The Prophet' movie)
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Twin animator-brothers, Paul and Gaetan Brizzi (France) directed On Death.

By Paul and Gaetan Brizzi  for the
By Paul and Gaetan Brizzi for the 'On Death' segment of 'The Prophet'
(Image by Gibran's 'The Prophet')
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Variety notes,

As if it weren't special enough to hear Neeson recite Gibran's sentiments amidst such striking visuals, the addition of music further elevates verses that so many have already committed to memory and which a whole new audience can now discover for the first time.

Yo-Yo Ma contributed music, along with French-Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared and singer-songwriters Damien Rice and Glen Hansard. Hear samples of all the music here, and see the trailer here.


(Image by By Paul and Gaetan Brizzi for the 'On Death' segment of 'The Prophet')   Details   DMCA

Animation - it's not just for kids, anymore. In fact, the first animated features by Disney were intended to delight adults, and clearly the pendulum is swinging back.

Gibran, a visual artist as well as poet, must be nodding in approval from the mystical place beyond the grave.

Poster for
Poster for 'The Prophet'
(Image by Gibran's 'The Prophet' movie)
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Afterword:

I saw The Prophet at the NARO Expanded Cinema in Norfolk, VA which was also featured in my article, Vintage Cinema: Fond Glimpses of Classic Beauties.

A free downloadable multidisciplinary educational kit and curriculum guide by "Journeys in Film" is available as a pdf.

Reference: "A Letter from Salma Hayek," from the pdf "Introduction to The Prophet.

 

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)
 

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