Khalil Gibran Revisited

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Who doesn’t know of Khalil Gibran. An Arab immigrant to the US, Khalil’s life has never been explored yet though his sayings are all abound online and his book The Prophet, well devoured across the world. Film maker Mona Ibellini (of Jordanian-Palestinian parentage but raised in the UK and working in the UAE) who shot the documentary spoke to Filmfare Middle East on the story that was waiting to be told.

When did you start reading Khalil Gibran ?

From a very young age. We spoke Arabic at home in London and it is normal to read books written by Arab immigrants to the West. KhalilGibran was one of them. He was from a Jordanian family that emigrated to the US and he grew up there and wrote his work. While his sayings and philosophy stayed with me, I was never keen to know about his life then and how his writings took shape. It was only a recent inquisition that made me research about him and his life and the film happened.

Why Khalil Gibran?

It is a bit surreal. When I started work on the topic, I got to know of so many people who have been trying to discover Khalil Gibran in their own way.  You might be aware that Salma Hayek is producing an animation film on Khalil Gibran. A friend of mine is working on the project with her. The Emirati cartoonist Mohammed Saeed  Hareeb has been roped in to create the 3D part of Salma’s film. Then a friend from Brazil doing a research on him and even one of the illustrious royal family members who has done a dissertation on Gibran. It has been magical. What was common though was, for a whole lot of us around the world Kahlil Gibran has been a guiding light during our growing up years and now.

Your film is about Rest Upon the Wind, the play on Gibran, tell us about it?

This play by Westend UK reflects the ups and downs of Khalil Gibran’s life as an immigrant poet/painter in America. It is the story of his struggle to deliver a message of love and peace to his fellow human beings, as he did in “The Prophet”. It is the story of those who loved him and tried to help him people like his rebellious sister Miryanna, his guardian angel, Mary, his eccentric mentor, Fred – and those who tried to thwart and destroy him – his businessman neighbor, Marzoo, and his secret lover, Micheline. The troubles and cruelties of his daily life led him to seek the highest level of spirituality. The play has been scripted by acclaimed Jordanian-born actor Nadim Sawalha and celebrates the Arab sense of humour and family warmth through the relationship of Gibran and his sister Myranna as they struggle to adapt to life in America. Memories of childhood and his own spiritual awakening in Mount Lebanon are juxtaposed with the everyday bustle and music of the Lebanese Enclave of Chinatown, Boston. The experience of dislocation and the yearning for a new life are vividly realized in this staging directed by award winning director Tanushka Marah. With original sound-score from award winning composer Jules Deering, this production boasts stunning visuals, live music and electric performances from a seven strong cast. I know these actors from a long time and decided to make a film after conversations with them on their association with Khalil Gibran – the figure they were trying to portray through the play.

What about a full fledged film on Khalil Gibran then?

Inshallah. That too will happen. I hope Khalil Gibran himself leads it forward. I wish I had met him. I would surely have ended up marrying him. It is heartening to see how he is celebrated in the West. They revere him and even changed his name from Khalil to Kahlil, so that they could pronounce it with ease.