Rendezvous with the 99

The infusion of Eastern beliefs with Western culture has been a much sought after achievement; the philosopher’s stone capable of bringing untold spiritual and material riches to whomsoever has the ability to wield it. Yesterday was the opportunity to see first-hand how one such phenomenon has risen from the ranks of entrepreneurs to join the ranks of visionaries.

The 99: Unbound

Dr. Naif adding his signature to the Poster

Royals, Ministers, Investors, Ambassadors, Dignitaries, Media and friends all gathered at 360 for the premiere VIP screening of The 99: Unbound before its theatrical release in Kuwait on the 23rd of February (to be released in English & Arabic), where Dr. Naif Al Mutawa’s vision was shared on Kuwaiti soil for the very first time on the big screen.

The 99: Unbound

There are no spoilers here regarding the movie, no ruining of plots and twists. The purpose is not to tell you how or what to think. This is merely an attempt to give credit where credit is due.

The atmosphere was intense; the presence of so many haute couture individuals in a single area is enough to set anyone’s Spider sense to overload. Representatives of the UK, Canada, India, Indonesia and countless other countries all come together to commend one man’s vision.

What made the evening somewhat less resembling of a tight-rope walk was the warm, kind hearted, down to earth nature of Dr. Naif Al Mutawa; smiling graciously at friends and strangers alike, warmly shaking hands, defusing any sense of panic and making the evening extremely pleasant as opposed to living in fear of making one mistake amidst these individuals of Titan like stature (although in all honesty, I was awed when I first shook hands with Dr. Naif, barely able to blurt out what an honor it was to finally meet him in person).

One by one, the guests began arriving, posted by my friend’s side at the registration table, I was able to glance at the names and offer linguistic assistance to bridge the language gap. (Note to attendees, kindly remember what name is your handle when sending/ receiving emails, as that will be how your name appears on the guest list). All were provided with a concession stand pass for those with the munchies during movies before the show started.

Guests were asked to sign a large poster of The 99 after registering. I chose to symbolically place my comment near the mosque and full moon.

Yes, goes to show that Goosebumps manifest themselves not just in actions, but also in writing. Last word should have been as we HAVE. Sorry!

Finally, it was show time.

An opening statement by the Minister of Information, in lieu of his Highness The Amir, thanking all for attending and congratulating Dr. Naif Al Mutawa on his efforts to bridge the gap between East and West, that superheroes give traits to the young generation and that this will serve as a positive influence for the East, as well as mentioning with great pride how President Obama had also commended the brilliant vision as a positive step towards reintroducing East and West.

Dr. Naif Al Mutawa took the floor, and once again the crowd learnt a new level of respect for this man.

He started off by mentioning how the media is not just responsible for reporting but also creating, his analogy was on-the-dot; The Cosby show was released in the 80s, a comedy series on the outside whose main purpose was to teach the White community about African Americans, and also to introduce African Americans to themselves (the protagonist was a Doctor, his wife an Attorney, showing that success can be attained if you work hard for it).

As with his speech at TED, Dr. Naif went on to describe how he did not enjoy the way the East thought of the West and the way the West thought of the East. Disinformation and stereotypes were exuded as the norm, with minimal efforts expended to clear the confusion.

The world needed to see the East in better light; and after years of stagnation and non-action, Dr. Naif Al Mutawa stepped up to the plate with a simple vision of vast reach: Tolerance. He went on to thank the dignitaries for attending, citing how it was a global effort that pushed The 99 past the finish line. The animation was done in India, a large fan base existed in Indonesia, the UK, Australia, Turkey etc. purchased licenses to air the show there. Dr. Naif thanked all for attending and wished us an enjoyable show.

The lights dimmed, the speakers rumbled and the movie commenced, as we were transported into another world of Noor Stones and special abilities.

The online world was buzzing with comments regarding the usage of CGI to bring the 99 onto the screen. Some were citing it would be better served as an animated (drawn) series. People forget how amazing Johnny Quest was, and how amazing Transformers Prime is. The 99 did not disappoint.

After the movie finished the guests were asked to remain seated, Dr. Naif thanked the attendees once more, and inquired if anyone had any questions, he would stay as long as required to answer them.

After the show, Dr. Naif graciously waited at the exit to shake hand with the guests and hear their comments, pose for pictures, even autographs. Remarkable

His knowledge of Islam and Arab culture was astounding, it was clear as he gave historic references to the naming of certain characters in The 99, to places etc. he had given his own interpretation of the knowledge possessed by the Ancient Arabian Culture. He also had great insight into the Comic Universe, explaining how all superheroes were interpretations of prophets; Spiderman, Superman and Batman were all orphaned. Superman was sent to earth from another planet (reference to Moses). We had a real-live Robert Langdon in our midst, dissecting the religious and symbolic interpretations behind our favorite childhood superheroes, allowing us to see them with different eyes.

In that regard, I inquired as to the reference behind “The 99” as my initial belief was that the Noor Stones were named after The 99 traits/names of Allah (God). Dr. Naif informed me that the traits were universal to all religions, not just Islam. Hence, his message of preaching tolerance was exemplified, leaving me in awe of the machinations of his mind.

Further, Dr. Naif explained how the idea of using stones that carried magical gifts came from the mention of birds smiting evil doers with stones in Islam. (I had initially believed it alluded to a myth in certain Sufi sects regarding the existence of gems inscribed with the names of Allah that grant their possessor incredible luck and good fortune)

Also, the main message was not selling Islam to the world, but preaching tolerance. All characters are from different parts of the globe, different nationalities; different religions. They are strongest when they work together in groups of three; breaking all barriers between them. It is about the individual and what they bring to the table.

Although unique in every sense of the word, Dr. Naif Al Mutawa, in essence, bears a striking resemblance to several Key Western figures. An obvious one would be Stan Lee, former Marvel P&CEO and co-creator of several Marvel superheroes including Spiderman, Hulk, Thor, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Iron Man. He more closely resembles the late Steve Jobs, in essence. However, Dr. Naif is not selling  an overpriced smart phone, or a music player, or a tablet. He is selling an idea, a concept, a belief that one man can make a difference.

Thank you Dr. Naif for giving us back our Dignity as Muslims, as Arabs; and showing it to the rest of the World.

Muslim and Proud.

August 2011 ( View complete archive page )

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