He wears a dog tag on a very muscular arm, eyes glowing, trained on something in the distance that only he can see. His name is XE7, and he is a cyborg from the future, a man as unique as the one who created him. XE7 is the main character in the first computer generated science fiction film to come from the United Arab Emirates, slated to premier in early 2010. It is the main project of a man with a history of success in creating unique characters that people clamor for, but the first film to come from this comic book author.
Ashraf Ghori was born in India but moved to Dubai when he was only 2. The youngest of three brothers in a family with six children, his father was a civil engineer and his parents were part of the movement that turned what was once a barren landscape into the posh resort hub that it has become today.
Growing up, Ashraf remembers being crazy about comic books and superheroes, things that were not very common in Dubai. Often getting into trouble in school for paying more attention to his comics than to his schoolwork, Ashraf still remembers the sting of a day when his principal humiliated him in front of his class for a comic book drawing he had done. Later in life, this same principal presented Ashraf with an award for outstanding achievement in art. This and the story of the land of Dubai itself taught Ashraf an important lesson early in life - success is achievable for those who dare.
With this in mind, at 14 Ashraf went to a prominent UAE newspaper, drawings in hand, to request a position as an illustrator for their children’s magazine. He was told to ‘come back when he could draw better’. Perhaps it was simple ageism that led this art director to give such criticism, because the next week Ashraf got a job as a cartoonist at another paper, the Khaleej Times. So intent was the editor on having the young artist on the payroll, he even had to lie about his age in order to get Ashraf a paycheck.
This exposure gave Ashraf his first taste of success and fame. He quickly gained a fan base in Dubai and became well-known for his artwork. Many people in Dubai today still remember him for the cartoons he created during his time at the newspaper.
After high school, Ashraf left Dubai and headed to the U.S. to attend the University of Houston to study graphic design. It was while in Houston that he began regularly attending comic book conventions and putting together a large portfolio of his work. This led him to be featured in a comic book exhibit at San Jacinto College in Pasadena.
“There is currently quite a bit of media buzz about the upcoming film [Xero Error] but Ashraf takes it all in stride. He knows that this could be a turning point in his life…”
In 1993, Ashraf teamed up with other Houston-based creative designers and formed Tempest Comics, an outlet to publish their anthologies of original stories featuring original characters. A year later, the team went on to publish a four issue miniseries titled Tempest Comics Presents, which earned them some fame among the Houston crowd. This fame led them to be featured regularly at comic book conventions, to be called upon to do in-store signings of their comics for a long line of fans, to be featured in newspapers and on television and for Ashraf to be featured at the prestigious Dallas Comic Con in 1994. Because none of this paid his bills, Ashraf earned some money working for Six Flags Astroworld theme park as a caricature artist and was supplemented by his supportive family.
After graduating from college, to the sadness of his Houston friends and fans, Ashraf decided to return to Dubai, a place where there was virtually no demand for his sort of work but the place where his family, and therefore his heart were. Ashraf’s father offered to employ him in the family construction business but instead Ashraf knew he had to continue on his path so he got a job as a laser show animator in Abu Dhabi and continued to freelance as an illustrator for publications in Dubai. After a year working the 9 to 5 in Abu Dhabi, Ashraf had enough freelance work to move back to Dubai.
By the age of 25, things seemed to begin moving for Ashraf. He married his loving and supportive wife Humera and continued to establish business connections through his freelance work. In 2007, Ashraf began a small animation studio called Xpanse CGI, where he focused mainly on TV commercials, visual effects, architectural walkthroughs and film titles. During this time he also earned the honor of being elected as a mainstay jury member and consultant for the Kuwait Advertising Awards. All of this led him to his main project to date, the film Xero Error.
Ashraf came up with concept and story line in 2008 and has been involved with virtually every aspect of its creation since. Because it is not a commercial project, this brain-child of Ashraf’s is a true labor of love. It is mainly self-funded with assistance from sponsors and volunteers who believe in Ashraf’s work and have seen what his creative mind can produce. The concept for the story centers around XE7, a cyborg and ‘time messenger’ who discovers that things in recoded history contradict events that he has actually witnessed. This leads him on a spiritual journey during which he finds himself in the middle of a crime scene, unlocking a major cyber-terrorism scandal and leading to trouble with FACET-The First Authority in Cyber Espionage & Terrorism.
There is currently quite a bit of media buzz about the upcoming film but Ashraf takes it all in stride. He knows that this could be a turning point in his life, getting his work into an arena where more people can see what he has to offer. He also recognizes that fame is a fickle thing and he really can never be sure how it will all work out. Either way though, this creative mind will come out of it just fine because, as Ashraf says, “I will have the satisfaction of saying I tried my best. God has been good to me my whole life and I expect He will continue to do so for the rest of it.” Time has shown Ashraf’s adage to hold true, that success is achievable for those who dare and he has never stopped daring to put himself and his work out there for the critics of the world to judge. So far though, the critical mind of the public has loved what this creator has to offer so old fans and new ones alike wait to see what Xero Error has in store for us.
Follow the evolution of Ashraf’s film at www.xero-error.com
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Thank you Ashraf, for sharing your Story with us.
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(c) 2009 by Cara Moorehead and Story of My Life®
Ashraf Ghori & Danny Glover