First Look
Allah is Not Obliged

Allah n'est pas obligé
A Conversation with Zaven Najjar

Saturday, January 27
FIAF Skyroom

In English • 75 min

Graphic designer and filmmaker Zaven Najjar and producer Sébastien Onomo present Allah is Not Obliged (Allah n’est pas obligé), Najjar’s first feature film based on the eponymous international bestseller by Ivory Coast author Ahmadou Kourouma.

In the film, Birahima, a ten-year-old Guinean orphan, tells his story (with the help of four dictionaries and a lot of irony) on how he is thrown into tribal war when he tries to join his aunt in Liberia. Yacouba, a scoundrel who accompanies him, convinces him to become a child soldier, while he establishes himself as a grigriman among the combatants. In the midst of chaos, torn between the many enemy factions, Birahima grows up fast and learns to distrust the stories he is told.

In this First Look event, Najjar, an award-winning graphic designer and artistic director of The Siren (the closing night film of this year’s festival), will detail his artistic choices and how he adapts his unique graphic style to bring to life this powerful tale in which children’s innocence and youth are compromised by war. Film producer Sébastien Onomo will discuss its production and his work to bring to the screen stories from the African continent.

Produced by Special Touch Studios, Allah is Not Obliged is due to be released in 2025.

Moderated by Hsiang Chin Moe, Chair of BFA Animation Department, School of Visual Arts.

About Zaven Najjar

Zaven Najjar is a French director and artistic director whose illustration series Rapposters—100 posters focused on 100 rap classics created in 100 days—was transformed into a clothing line by the brand Quatre Cent Quinze and distributed by Colette, Miami Art Basel, and Citadium. He’s the graphic author and artistic director of the animated feature, The Siren (La Sirène), directed by Sepideh Farsi. The film premiered at the 2023 Berlin International Film Festival and was selected for the 2023 Annecy International Animation Film Festival. Najjar’s first animated short, Un Obus Partout, received several festival awards. Allah is Not Obliged will be Najjar’s first feature film.

About Sébastien Onomo

French producer Sébastien Onomo has over 10 years of experience in the film and audiovisual industry in both live action and animation. He is also behind the prize-winning Funan in 2018 which earned the Crystal Award at the 2018 Annecy International Animation Film Festival and had its US premiere at Animation First 2019. This past year, he produced The Forest of Miss Tang which premiered at the 2023 Annecy International Animation Film Festival and The Siren, which opened the Panorama section at the 2023 Berlinale and received numerous prizes including Best Music Award at Annecy 2023. In 2023, he received the Animation Trophy from Film Français.