Edo Smitshuijzen

Arab visual splendor in French animation

Azur and Asmar, by Michel Ocelot

The film is directed and produced by Michel Ocelot and is a must see for all interested in Arabic visual language. Click here for more details on the film's official website.

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The French society has a strong relationship with the Arab culture. Syria, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunesia and Algeria were once French protectorates. The Arabic speaking population in France is still large. France also has a very strong tradition in graphic novel and animation. One of the best educations for digital animation, the SEA Institute, is located in Paris. The French animation style is quite distinct from the American tradition, it is more focussed on visual representation, more poetic, less focussed on narration, fun and humor. Although the French are clearly influenced by the high level of American digital animation production.

It all resulted in a beautiful movie called Azur and Asmar, telling the story of two young men, sharing one Arab mother/nanny but having different fathers: one is Arab the other French. The movie itself is visually totally Arabic, it plays in the Arab world and the story has all the typical ingredients of the Arabic mystical storytelling.