Leisurely paced and intricately rendered, this computer-animated fable centers around two men from the Middle Ages who grow up as brothers, suffer a separation, and learn to live as equals again. North African nanny Jénane (Hiam Abbass in the French version; Suzanna Nour in the English) raises her brown-eyed son, Asmar, and his blue-eyed friend, Azur, but the latter comes from a line of noblemen. Jénane teaches the toddlers a song about a prince who rescues the Djinn Fairy from captivity. By boyhood, Azur lives in the castle, but continues to play with Azur, until his father sends him away to study and dismisses Jénane. As an adult, Azur experiences prejudice for the first time when he ends up in a North Africa village where the inhabitants view blue eyes as bad luck, so he keeps them closed and begs for his supper, like fellow Frenchman Crapoux. In the interim, Jénane and Asmar have become wealthy. With the help of the beggar, a tiny princess, and a Jewish sage, Azur competes with Asmar to free the fairy and make her his bride, but only one can prevail. French animator Michel Ocelet's follow-up to Kirikou and the Wild Beast
moves slow by American standards, but the abundance of vibrant arabesque animation and absence of pop-culture wisecracks offers ample compensation. Though too complicated for some pre-schoolers, the DVD includes a British version with dubbed dialogue and subtitled French and Arabic songs. Anthony Minghella’s favorite composer, Gabriel Yared, provides the enchanting score. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Once upon a time there were two children who grew up together - Azur, the blue-eyed son of a nobleman, and Asmar, the dark-eyed child of a nurse. As they grow up, the nurse tells them many enchanting stories, but their favorite is about a beautiful fairy waiting to be released from captivity by a good and heroic prince. The two boys are as close as brothers, until the day Azur's father cruelly separates them, banishing Asmar from his home and sending Azur away for private education. Some years later Azur sets out to a land far away to find Asmar and to see if the legend of the fairy is true. Finally reunited, Azur and Asmar set out to see who will be the first to rescue the fairy.