By SARAH EL DEEB
BEIRUT — Salma Hayek says the animated feature film The Prophet she co-produced has been a personal passion project, one she hopes can inspire young viewers to think outside the box about ways to improve the world.
Hayek is visiting Lebanon, her ancestral homeland, for the international premiere of the film, written and directed by Roger Allers, the maker of the Disney production The Lion King.
Hayek told The Associated Press that the movie has a “message of peace.”
“I think the whole world could use a little bit of message of peace, and more than a message of peace, to watch something that’s uplifting for the spirit and joyous, and that you can share with your family,” Hayek said as she walked down the red carpet for the movie premiere in a downtown Beirut cinema complex.
The film tells the story of Almitra, a young girl who finds the voice she lost through her friendship with Mustafa, a poet imprisoned for his ideas. Hayek also provides the voice of the girl’s mother, Kamila.
The story is based on the The Prophet, a book written in 1923 by iconic Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran that has inspired generations of artists. The book, a series of poems about love, joy, sorrow, and work, has been translated into at least 40 languages and has never been out of print.
The film is divided into chapters illustrated by various animators. The score is by Gabriel Yared, the French composer of Lebanese descent who won an Oscar for his work on the English Patient.
Speaking to reporters, Hayek, whose paternal grandparents are Lebanese, described the film as “a love letter to my heritage” that hopefully will encourage new generations to think differently.
“Through this book I got to know my grandfather. Through this book I got to have my grandfather teaching me about life. So it is a very personal movie for me,” Hayek told reporters in Beirut ahead of the movie’s premiere. The film opens in cinemas in the United States in August.
Hayek said through illustrations, it was possible to capture the spirit of Gibran’s work.
“It encourages the new generation to go somewhere else to break out of the box” to change the world, she said.
The movie also helped bring to the audience a message of compassion and humanity from an author who comes from a violence-torn region.
Gibran, she said, “is an Arabic writer who wrote philosophy and poetry and who brought all religions and the world together.”
On the red carpet, Hayek, who was wearing a dress by Lebanese designer Elie Saab, said she didn’t read the book to her 7-year-old daughter, Valentina, but has watched the film with her.
“It’s hard for a kid to understand (The Prophet) as it’s written, that’s why we made the movie. She understands it in the film, because she sees the images of the words,” Hayek told AP.
Hayek’s daughter and her father accompanied her on her first trip to Lebanon.
“This has been the most amazing trip. I was not prepared for how emotional it was going to be for my family to be here,” she said.