Digital Studio

EDITOR’S COLUMN

SUMMER OF CONTENT

- SHALAKA PARADKAR

The era of big summer releases – the films that urge you to trade in the sweltering outdoors for a cool dark theatre – started in 1975 with Jaws, and Star Wars (1977) made it all official.

This year, we have had a pre- summer blockbuste­r in Disney’s Aladdin. Watching it with my kids, it was impossible not to be charmed by Will Smith’s wisecracki­ng genie, or the Bollywood-inspired songs and dances set against Wadi Rum’s breathtaki­ng landscapes. With principal roles going to actors of Indian, Iranian and Egyptian heritage – definitely a step up from when actors in Hollywood films were “brownfaced” to depict Middle Eastern characters – Aladdin does beat the drum for diversity, however confused the sound.

Another production that made the most of Jordanian scenery was Jinn, which premiered last month on Netflix. The VOD platform’s first Arabic Original series has caused quite a backlash amongst conservati­ve Jordanians, appalled by the teen protagonis­ts’ substance abuse and salty language. We caught up with the American co- executive producers of Jinn, Rajeev and Elan Dassani in the wake of the controvers­y ( page 13), who believe they have been authentic in their portrayals of privileged Amman

high schoolers. Netflix India’s recent dystopian drama Leila directed by Deepa Mehta, has also attracted praise and condemnati­on in equal parts for its political messaging. While Netflix has always managed to tap into the cultural zeitgeist with its English content (whether it’s You that made us question the obsession over social media or Stranger Things that left us yearning for the 80s), has the streaming giant managed to be culturally relevant when it comes to regional content?

Jinn is just the first of several more Arabic Originals planned by Netflix. Our cover star for this issue, Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy, is also associated with Zodiac, now streaming on Viu, and Paranormal, expected to drop next year on Netflix. In our interview ( page 16), Hefzy discusses the Middle East’s evolving film industry and what the future holds.

Technology has brought in sweeping changes in the M& E landscape – and while it can be blamed for the demise of linear TV and the rise in piracy, it has also democratis­ed production as Nayla Al Khaja says ( page 50). In this issue’s special report, we look into the latest advances in audio consoles, where new tech may even cause the physical console to disappear.

From all of us at Digital Studio, here’s wishing you a summer full of amazing possibilit­ies!

“TECHNOLOGY HAS BROUGHT IN SWEEPING CHANGES IN THE M&E LANDSCAPE – AND WHILE IT CAN BE BLAMED FOR THE DEMISE OF LINEAR TV AND THE RISE IN PIRACY, IT HAS ALSO DEMOCRATIS­ED PRODUCTION”

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