Arab Awakenings

Posted on: Wednesday 10 August 2011 10:05am

blogged by Delyth Thomas.

Naomi Sakr, Professor of Media Policy (CAMRI), University of Westminister
Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa, CEO, Teshkeel Media Group
Nia Ceidiog, Managing Director/Producer, CEIDIOG, Cyf
Firdaus Kharas, Chairman, Chocolate Moose Media
Cynthia Madanat Sharaiha, Managing Director / Creative Director, Dana Production Company
Howard Myers, Joint Managing Director, Rival Media
Theresa Reed, 3Line Media
Produced by:
Jeanette Steemers, Professor of Media and Communications, , (CAMRI) University of Westminste

Friday morning and there are some fairy bleary eyed delegates hitting the caffeine in the Showroom café, but by 9.30am the cinema is filling up and there’s a gentle buzz about this session, and a very strict, highly entertaining floor manager ensuring the panel stick to their allotted time slots…

There’s a significant expansion of children’s channels across the Arab world, and therefore a need for a huge amount of content. Some of this is home grown, some co-pros and others from international companies making material in Arabic. The first speaker Dr Naif Al-Mutawa (speaking on video) and creator of “The 99” – an animated series about superheroes drawn from Islamic culture.

He articulated his belief that with no licensing laws and little funding, to create a viable marketable Arabic product, it’s better ‘go into the Arab world and pull out global issues – i.e. to be international.’

However Firdaus Kharas, exec producer on Al Jazeera’s first ever home-grown pre-school animation – versioned in 90 languages , sold to150 countries, with 1 billion viewers – disproves Dr Al-Mutawa’s theory somewhat. Likewise the Jordanian Dana Production company is making hugely successful content for Arabic channels.

The two British exports, both preschool animations, approach their co-pros slightly differently. Nia Ceidiog, creator of Baas (a family of animated sheep), the second series of which was commissioned by Al Jazeera and S4C , made the series in Wales, whereas Theresa Reed of 3 Line Media, did the re-versioning of Driver Dan Story Train In Abu Dhabi – using local talent, and local kids for the live action element of the programme. Some of the animation needed re-versioning to account both for physical cultural differences, right to left page turns for example, and general cultural differences – probably adding another 10% to the budget.

When working in Arabic there’s also the linguistic issue to consider given it’s a hugely diverse market. Al Jazeera uses a classical Arabic that’s not always understood by pre-schoolers who mainly speak in their own dialect. Imagine Shakespeare reading Jackanory to a 3 year old….!

Howard Myers uses linguistic differences to great advantage in his adventure reality show ‘Power Struggle’ – made and shot entirely in Arabic for the Arabic market. Kids come from all over the Arab world to be on the show, speaking in their own dialects and having to learn to understand each other – the presenter speaks in classical Arabic.

Whichever way you look at this though, universally kids are kids no matter what language or culture.