Heritage and humanity, those are the two pivotal catalysts
that empowered Mexican star Salma Hayek to pursue her most beloved passion
project: an utterly ambitious animated reimagining of a literary classic.
Produced by Hayek, “Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet” is one of the most mesmerizing
films of the year and a miraculous milestone in the history of animation.
Enlisting Roger Allers to direct the frame narrative and 8
other talented animators to create visually stunning interpretations of some of
Gibran’s most insightful poems about love, death, and everything in between,
Salma Hayek has been more than a producer.
She has spearheaded every aspect of the
production and is now dedicating her every moment to get the word out about
this transformative cinematic experience.
Her initial contact with The Prophet was through her
Lebanese grandfather who treasured its pages for their heartfelt wisdom; however,
the actress, who also voices Kamila in the film, reassured us that today her
devotion for Gibran’s writing is even more personal. Hayek’s humanitarian work
around the world and her role as a mother have given her a broader perspective
of the current state of the world, and in that sense this film represents her
efforts to advocate for tolerance and compassion.
Chatting with Hayek her immense enthusiasm and attachment for
this gem of a film are tangible. It’s clear her involvement thrives on a genuine
desire to share Gibran’s message with the world through the artistic triumph
she, her directors, and cast, have achieved.
Here is our brief conversation with Salma Hayek who will
next be seen in Toronto for the premier of “Septembers of Shiraz.”
“Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet” opens in L.A. and NYC on
Friday August 7th.
Aguilar: This film is different from everything else you’ve done and it seems to be a deeply personal project for you. Why was it so important for you make this project a reality and what’s your personal connection to Gibran’s poetry?
Salma Hayek: This film is very, very important for me. It’s like a summary of many things that I am, of many things that worry me, and of many things that give me hope. My direct connection to it you already know it or you can read it elsewhere – about my grandpa- so let’s use the time to talk about things you haven’t read. I wanted to make a film that could touch the soul and that connected us with and reminded us of our humanity. I think that we are becoming dehumanized. With all the work I’ve down around the world, most of it regarding women, I often ask myself, “How could this be?”
Even if you don’t do any of that work, you can see it in the news. How can it be possible that people don’t value life? How can it possible for them to take someone else’s life so easily? How can it be that we are becoming so dehumanized to such degree? Therefore, I wanted to make a film that could connect the viewer with their humanity. Kahlil Ginbran, with the poetry he wrote, touches all kinds of people. He unites people from all religions, people from all social backgrounds, people from all intellectual backgrounds. There are people who might not read a lot, but they still understand and they are moved by this poetry. People use this poetry for weddings and funerals, so it belongs to them in a very intimate way in their lives. I asked myself, “Why?” I think it’s because his poetry talks about the simple things in life that unite us all: love, death, children, food. He talks about this things in way that celebrates life and in way that shows gratefulness for life.
That’s a reason, but I also think there is another reason. When you read his poetry, and it has happened to me not only with his poetry but also with other things, you find a phrase here and a phrase there and when you hear it not only does it makes sense, but you feel like it’s familiar. It’s not because you have heard it before, but because when you listen to it you are not listening with your head. There is something within you, your instincts, that are telling you, “This is the truth.” It sounds familiar to you because it’s true. That’s why I wanted to make this film and why it’s so important for me.
It was also important for the film to be a communication vehicle for you with yourself and your humanity, but also within the family. The film can be watched by kids from 3-years-old to 103-years-old. When people come out after watching the film, if you don’t want to talk, you are in a state in which you are invisibly hugging everyone around you. However, many times, especially children, want to talk after watching the film. Nowadays when you take your children to the movies, they might tell you about what they just saw, but it’s not a conversation where they ask or tell you about something they experienced during the film or something that made them think. I think this film will be a communication channel between families.
Aguilar: Why did you think the best way to tell this story was with animation?
Salma Hayek: Because the other theme of the film is freedom, and because for children – who might not understand all the words – I needed to tell the story with images. But you can’t tell or represent poetry with just images of people. Freedom, generosity, love, compassion are not faces; however, art can represent them very well with images. Images that are not bound by a body. When I speak about freedom, it’s about freedom of the spirit. Freedom of the spirit can’t be represented by a body. It has to be art. It has to be all the colors. It has to be something that moves and has no boundaries.
Aguilar: When saw the film for the first time, what was the sequence that captivated or surprised you the most?
Salma Hayek: I didn’t see it for the first time as animation. I saw it every day throughout different stages. From developing the screenplay and finding the right story. I’ve never seen it for “the first time.” I’ve seen it hundreds and hundreds of times, but every time I see it there are different phrases that stand out to me in different ways. It’s incredible. I don’t get tired of seeing it.
Salma Hayek: Oh my God! Tomm Moore is a genius.
Aguilar: It’s one of the most beautiful sequences – animated or nor – that I’ve ever seen on screen.
Salma Hayek: Right in front of my bed in my room I have, well a TV – of course [Laughs] – and under the TV I have a print from the film and it’s from the “On Love” sequence. You don’t know how much I love that little piece of art. My husband and I look at it every day when we wake up and every day before going to sleep [Laughs].
Aguilar: When you were selecting what directors you wanted on board, how did you decide who would direct the frame structured story and who would be best for the poetry segments?
Salma Hayek: Roger wasn’t on board at the beginning. Tomm More was on board to direct the “On Love” segment before Roger came on. They are two types of directors. We needed a director that understood a more accessible language for the main structured story, and Roger was perfect for that. “The Lion King” is a children’s film that adults can also enjoy, and which has had a life after the film with theater. He was the perfect director to create this story. He also has a lot of experience in animation, which helped him collaborate with other directors. However, I want to make something very clear, all the directors in charge of the poem sequences had 100% creative freedom. They didn’t have to use a specific color palette or anything. They could whatever they wanted.
Aguilar: The only thing they had was the poem.
Salma Hayek: Yes, and they were able to interpret it however they liked. We were very careful to include artists from different religions or with no religion, from different countries, of different ages. I thought that the more diverse their styles and personalities were, the better the film would be. That’s why we chose these directors.
Aguilar: How has the film been received in Lebanon and do you plane to take it to Mexico as well?
Salma Hayek: In Lebanon, the film is a huge success. We beat “Avengers” on its second weekend. In Mexico I already have the premiere planed and I’m talks with a possible distributor.
Aguilar: Do you any plans of making a film in Mexico or in Spanish in the near future? If not, what are you working on now?
Salma Hayek: Not right now. I plan to only make one film this year. It’s a film I’m also producing that it’s very much about girl power. The female protagonist is not American, or Arab, or Latina, but it’s based on a true story.