Animated film for Ashura
Shia pilgrims gather to pray outside the Hussein shrine during a religious ceremony in the Iraqi city of Kerbala [EPA]
Animators in Lebanon are bringing to the cinema the story of the death of Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson.
Ard al-Taff was launched on Friday to coincide with Ashura, when Shia Muslims commemorate the death of Hussein at the battle for which the film is named in Kerbala in Iraq in AD 680.
"It's the first film which tells the story of Imam Hussein," Ahmed Homani, director of the Beirut production house behind the film, said.
The makers of the 3-D animated film hope to reach a wide audience.
"We are receiving requests from Indonesia and Malaysia for distribution. Most of the Arab states are talking about the possibility of distribution," Homani said.
Hussein was one of the sons of Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. "The script relies on the sources of Sunni Muslim scholars and historians"
Ahmed Homani, film director
Shias believe that leadership of the Muslim community should have passed to Ali and his descendants after Muhammad's death.
At the time of battle of Ard al-Taff, Muslim lands were governed from Damascus by a ruler called Yazid. He sent an army against Hussein to demand an oath of allegiance. Hussein refused.
Vastly outnumbered, he was slaughtered with most of his family and a small group of followers.
"The aim is to tell the story as it came in history books," Homani said. "The script relies on the sources of Sunni Muslim scholars and historians."
Commemoration of Ashura sets Shias apart from Sunnis. While Sunnis hold Hussein in high regard as a member of Muhammad's family, Shias see him as an immaculate and divinely inspired figure.
Shias mark the nine days before the commemoration of his death with readings focused on the events leading to the battle, which this year will be marked on January 29. Processions will be held on that day.
Shias have traditionally marked Ashura with plays telling Hussein's story.
Samer El-Karanshawy, an anthropologist, said Hussein represents courage, willingness to die for a cause and "absolute morality to the very end".
"He is also a symbol of revolution because of his stand against Yazid."
Observing a ban on depicting holy figures in Islam, the makers of Ard al-Taff have covered Hussein's face with a glowing light. His voice is supplied by a Lebanese Druze actor, Jihad al-Atrash.
"I felt challenged when I was asked to play this role," Atrash said. "This role is hard, bringing together revolution and faith, strength and steadfastness."