The “Lost,” “Annie” (and more) star voices the lead character in an animated feature film titled “Bilal,” which 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,” the actor says. “He became an inspiration to generations and we’re retelling his story 1,000 years later.”

The short synopsis reads: A thousand years ago, one boy with a dream of becoming a great warrior is abducted with his sister and taken to a land far away from home. Thrown into a world where greed and injustice rule all, Bilal finds the courage to raise his voice and make a change. Inspired by true events, this is a story of a real hero who earned his remembrance in time and history.

As Okay Africa notes, the story is based on the true story of Bilal Ibn Rabah, a freed slave of Ethiopian origin who converted to Islam and became a trusted companion of the Prophet Muhammad after he gained his freedom (more here).

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

The project has been in development for 8 years and is nearing completion.

As Jamal explains: “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.”

The 105-minute feature, currently in post-production, is set to be released during the latter half of this year.

It sounds quite an epic undertaking, one that Jamal says was financed by a number of local private equity investors.

This is certainly a project to keep track of, and I’ll be doing just that going forward.

In the meantime, check out a trailer for the upcoming film below: