“The Prophet” is a book of 26 poems written by Lebanese philosopher Kahlil Gibran. Published in 1923, the book follows an exiled poet named Almustafa, who — as he journeys home — talks with passersby about the human condition.
The book is now an animated feature film, which features eight poems from the book, each illustrated by different artists. Among the actors lending their voices to the film are Liam Neeson and Salma Hayek.
Hayek is also one of the producers on “The Prophet,” and she told The Frame about her personal connection to the story, via her Lebanese paternal grandfather.
"I was very, very close to him," said Hayek, whose grandfather died when she was six. "I was the favorite grandchild. On his bedside table he always kept a book. On the cover there was an image of a man that was very haunting to me. It made me think of my grandfather."
That book was "The Prophet." For Hayek, reading "The Prophet" as an adult reforged the connection with her grandfather, which inspired her to further elaborate on the work.
"When I read this book for the first time," Hayek said, "it was as if my grandfather was answering all my questions."
"Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet" stars Salma Hayek and Liam Neeson in the cinematic recreation of the popular book.
In making the film, the goal was to cinematically deliver Gibran's message through the eyes of a young girl, while pairing it with imagery. Hayek believes this is a delivery that makes Gibran's message accessible to all viewers.
"The story of this girl is the story of a little girl trying to find her voice," Hayek said. "It's a very personal thing for me. I think that we're all looking for our voice. We all lost something. In the case of this little girl, it's her father. When she finds a real purpose and she understands what her place is in this world. She finds the courage to find her own voice."
Neeson voices Almustafa in the film. For Hayek, having Neeson voice the character was the perfect match in more than one way.
"Liam Neeson is an extraordinary actor," Hayek said. "He's also an extraordinary man. It was important for the spirit of the film that there was some beauty in the human being that was playing Mustafa, which is the poet in the movie. There is so much warmth and wisdom in the sound of his voice."
"Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet" features the voices of Salma Hayek as Kamila and Liam Neeson as Mustafa.
Neeson was also able to read the poetry in a way that felt accessible to children. It also helped that he was a fan of Gibran's work.
"We were very impressed," Hayek said, "because he told us that he loved the book. But when it was time to read the poetry he'd put the script away because he knew them all by heart."
Hayek said her goal with the film is to bring the poetry to life: "I wanted people to stop thinking about the movie and listening to the story I was telling them. I wanted them to take a journey inside of themselves."
Hayek believes this task shouldn't be difficult because "The Prophet" covers topics that all individuals face everyday.
"His poems in this movie and in this book are about the simple things that we all share — death, love, children," Hayek said. "This helped me to take the audience to that place inside of themselves."
As far as Hayek's purpose for making the movie, she believes the words of Gibran can highlight essential factors that bind together a compassionate global community.
"Through my work as an activist I've seen so much sorrow and how the value of life has diminished," Hayek said. "I wanted to make a film that brought us all together."