Gibran’s The Prophet Hits the Silver Screen

In What's the Buzz by Olivia Snaije

Olivia Snaije

Khalil Gibran’s* The Prophet, published in 1923 by Alfred Knopf, has sold over nine million copies in the US alone — making Gibran the third bestseller poet ever, following Shakespeare and Lao-tzu. A work of “inspiration,” it has served as a spiritual guidebook for millions. Now the collection of 26 prose poems has been put to music and images in the form of a documentary by British filmmaker and composer Gary Tarn.

The film, shot in Lebanon, New York, London, Milan and Serbia, is a series of brief sequences mirroring the book’s structure. A nice touch is that the opening credits above the title The Prophet read “written by Kahlil Gibran.”

Just prior to the film’s premier this month at the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival, Tarn spoke about what inspired him:

“I don’t remember when I first encountered the book, but some years ago, given another copy by a friend, I happened to read it straight through. I was struck by the imagery and the poetry, and I wondered if it might be possible to make a film based on the text, a personal response to Gibran’s prose.”

Tarn’s first documentary, Black Sun, was nominated for a BAFTA in 2005; it retraced the experience of New York-based French artist Hughes de Montalembert who became blind after an assault. (De Montalembert’s memoir, Invisible, was published by Atria Books in 2010.)

*Gibran’s name was misspelled in the US and he was known as Kahlil, rather than Khalil.

About the Author

Olivia Snaije

Olivia Snaije is a journalist and editor based in Paris who writes about translation, literature, graphic novels, the Middle East, and multiculturalism. She is the author of three books and has contributed to newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Global Post, and The New York Times.