Tuesday, December 02, 2008


The story begins in medieval Northern Europe. Azur is a baby with piercing blue eyes and the son of a European noble. He is being nursed by his muslim maid Jenane, who is also nursing her son Asmar. They grow up together as rumbunctious qausi-brothers but Asmar resents Azur's claims on his mother's time. Soon Azur's father grows tired of the fighting and sends Azur to a tutor in another town. Asmar and his mother are thrown onto the streets. Years later, Azur still holds onto childhood tales of fairy princesses and he journeys to Andalusia and Marrakech to meet Jenane - now a wealthy lady. While the superstitious locals are fearful of Azur's eyes - fearing him to be the devil - Jenane takes him in and undertakes to fund his quest, just as she has funded Asmar's. With the help of a precocious princess Chamsous Sabah, a wise Jewish sage, and a choleric foreign guide, Azur searches for the djinn fairy, hot on the trail of his one-time brother....

AZUR AND ASMAR - THE PRINCE'S QUEST is a beautifully drawn, audaciously political children's animated movie. Set in the middle ages it deals with sharply relevant modern issues concerning respect for other's cultures. A characteristically neat touch sees writer-director Michel Ocelot choose not to subtitle lines spoken in a foreign language. He wants us to experience the reality of life in a foreign land - when we have to struggle to make out what is being communicated. Moreover, it shows modern viewers used to images of Islamist terrorists how the Andalusian muslims were pioneers of science, philosophy and multicultural cities. All this pre-amble might suggest that AZUR AND ASMAR is a movie weighed down by its pedagogical concerns but I'm pleased to report that for all its political correctness, the movie remains an enchanting tale of quests, dragons, beautiful fairies and true love! And all dressed up in some of the most vivid colours, wonderful music and rich textures seen in animated cinema.

AZUR ET ASMAR played Cannes 2006 and was released that year in France, Italy and Brazil. It was released in 2007 in Greece, Japan, Singapore and the Netherlands. It was released earlier this year in the UK, South Korea and the USA and is also on release on DVD.

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