21 Jan 2015

Game of Thrones star to voice the lead in Dubai-produced animated epic

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Left, Ayman Jamal, the screenwriter and founder and managing partner of Barajoun, and the actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje at a press conference in Dubai earlier today. Andrew H Walker / Getty Images for DIFF

If you were wondering what had brought Bourne Identity and Game of Thrones star Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje to this year’s Dubai International Film Festival, it seems the mystery has been solved.

Akinnuoye-Agbaje has signed up to voice the lead character in an in-production feature animation film from Dubai animation and FX house Barajoun Entertainment. Barajoun chief Ayman Jamal claims the movie will be unlike anything produced in the region to date.

“The movie tells the story of a real superhero, an African slave who was brought to Arabia 1,000 years ago and fought for his freedom,” he says. “He became an inspiration to generations and we’re retelling his story 1,000 years later.

The project has been in development for eight years, moving into the production phase in mid-2012, he says.

“We’ve pulled around 80 different animation and CGI talents from around the world to work with us on this. We’re talking people who worked on 300, Shrek, Lord of the Rings, that sort of calibre. It’s a really strong team and many of them are in Dubai for first time to make this movie.”

Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who also appeared in the television series Lost and Oz, adds: “I look forward to being part of such a passionate team dedicated to telling the stories of real-life superheroes from the Arab world. Telling these stories provides today’s youth with realistic, achievable, accessible role models – something I believe is really important.”

The 105-minute feature will, says Jamal, feature a full cast of A-list voices, of whom Akinnuoye-Agbaje is the first to be announced. He says that “a couple more” will be revealed in late January and the movie should be released in the final quarter of 2015.

Jamal won’t give away the name of the movie just yet, or indeed the name of the lead character Akinnuoye-Agbaje will be playing, but he says it’s the story of a real-life superhero, and the development process has been intense.

“We’ve paid serious attention to detail. We hired 11 researchers, including doctors from universities, to research the history of the story, and we’ve taken all the characters’ descriptions from at least 17 different historical sources. We hired two forensic scientists to model the characters based on these descriptions and what we know about the tribes of the time. It took six months to design each character and we’re really proud of it. We’re showing the characters exactly as described in historical texts, not just using our imagination. We’ve spent 5,000 hours of research to develop clothes and props too.”

It sounds like an epic undertaking, one that Jamal assures us is firmly backed by a number of local private equity investors, although he’s not giving away too many specifics. In fact, he’s so confident that he tells me that Barajoun is already developing a script for a second movie.

“We really believe there’s a lot of great opportunities here,” he adds. Via (thenational.ae)