“Dante’s Inferno” (Sean Meredith, Paul Zaloom, Sandow Birk, 2007)

Screen shot 2013-06-13 at 3.51.51 PM“DANTE’S INFERNO has been kicking around the cultural playground for over 700 years. But it has never before been interpreted with exquisitely hand-drawn paper puppets, brought to life using purely hand-made special effects. Until now. Rediscover this literary classic, retold in a kind of apocalyptic graphic novel meets Victoria-era toy theater. Dante’s Hell is brought to lurid 3-dimensional, high-definition life in a darkly comedic travelogue of the underworld–set against an all-too-familiar urban backdrop of used car lots, gated communities, strip malls, and the U.S. Capitol, and populated with a contemporary cast of reprobates, including famous (and infamous) politicians, presidents, popes, pimps, and the Prince of Darkness himself.”    —Dante Film

“THE last time that the artist Sandow Birk found himself concerned about responses from Muslims was in 2006. He was developing a film using puppets, inspired by his illustrations for a three-volume English-language version of Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy,’ when riots broke out over the Danish newspaper cartoons representing Muhammad.
The outcry prompted Mr. Birk’s film team to reconsider its own representation of the prophet. ‘We had Muhammad in our film because he was in Dante’s poem,’ he said. ‘Dante put him in ‘Inferno’ as someone who supposedly created schisms.’ He argued at the time for respecting Dante’s treatment of Muhammad, as artists like Gustave Doré had done before him.
But the film’s producers were spooked, and Muhammad disappeared from the film. ‘I thought it was wrong to act out of fear,’ Mr. Birk said from his studio here.
‘But I was upset for another reason too,’ he admitted. His film collaborators didn’t know at the time, but quietly — privately — he had already embarked on another potentially controversial project: an effort to make by hand what he called a ‘personal Koran.’ [. . .]    –Jori Finkel, The New York Times, August 28, 2009

See Also: the “Dante’s Inferno” Trailer
See Also: Sandow Birk’s Illustrations of the “Divine Comedy” (2006)

Contributed by Zac Milner (Bowdoin, ’07)