Cairo– Killer mummies, an inspiring house with ghosts, special effects and a sad soundtrack … many elements that the massive “Netflix” network relies on in streaming to make its first Egyptian original production, the “Beyond Nature” series.
In the first week of November, Netflix released the Egyptian series Mystery and Excitement based on Egypt’s best-selling fantasy novel series, “Supernatural,” by Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Tawfiq, in nine languages, including Arabic, to audiences in about 190 countries.
“With an audience of this size, it was logical for us to get involved in the project,” Ahmed Sharkawy, head of original Arab and African content at Netflix, told AFP.
“We are excited that our fans will see their favorite characters – monsters and ghosts – come to life,” he added.
The first Egyptian series on “Netflix” represents a transformation in the entertainment industry in Egypt in particular and the Arab world in general.
Egypt has always been a major cultural and artistic center in the region, with dozens of films and series of various genres annually.
However, according to critics, the country’s film production has lost its fortunes in recent years, after the golden age of the 1940s to 1960s.
Therefore, many hope that the growth of streaming services will inject new life into the industry and widen the audience of Egyptian productions worldwide.
“We’re starting to see some filmmakers avoid government and private funding agencies and go directly to Netflix,” said Marwan Kreidi, an Arab media expert and dean of Northwestern University in Qatar, noting that “this model is gain strength in the Arab world. “
The events of the new Egyptian series, comprising six episodes, revolve in the 1960s around the supernatural adventures of haematologist Rifaat Ismail, played by the young Egyptian actor Ahmed Amin.
During the series, Ismail, along with his Scottish colleague Maggie McKillop, played by Lebanese-British actress Razan Jamal, attempts to unravel mysteries, whether on the outskirts of Cairo or deep in the Libyan desert.
“We wanted to create high-quality content without losing Egyptian spirit to work,” says young Egyptian director Amr Salama, who has participated in many international film festivals.
“We didn’t want our work to sound like an American series dubbed in Arabic,” added Salama, director of “Sheikh Jackson.” Even with special effects, myths and scary stories, we wanted it to be authentic Egypt. ”
On social media, Egyptian responses to the series varied, with many mocking the use of special effects, while others praised the representative performance of lead actor Ahmed Amin.
Amin appears during series events, wearing medical glasses and speaking in a depressed voice, as well as regular cigarette smoking, and the irony is that this actor became famous in Egypt through the comedy program which was broadcast on the Internet before it was produced and shown on television after its success.
Amin told AFP that “the starring role in the Supernatural series coincides with the challenge of transferring the Egyptian drama to the international stage.”
“It’s a test to see if we can compete and attract audiences outside the Arab world,” he said.
Credi likes the experience of “Netflix” storming the Arab markets into the success of the US “HBO” television network in attracting viewers to prominent programs like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire”.
“Internet broadcasters have pushed the limits of the Egyptian television drama concept,” Kreedi said.
Credi noted that streaming services have created a classy middle class of entertainment consumers.
He added that the “big change … is to blow up the rhythm of TV consumption and break down the family-to-individual viewing unit.”
“Now everyone is watching what they want, anytime they want … on a set of devices,” he said.
The recent praise of Arab American actors and writers in Hollywood to critics may have been a contributing factor in highlighting original Arabic works on these networks.
Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek won the Best Actor Oscar last year for portraying singer Freddy Mercury in the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
The comedy series “Ramy” produced by the “Hulu” network and starring Egyptian-American actor Ramy Youssef also won a Golden Globe award at the beginning of this year.
Subscribers to “Netflix” in the region are still less than five million, but the network hopes to double the number by 2025 with a wide range of Arabic content shows, including a music show by the Egyptian singer Amr Diab later this year.
For her part, actress Jamal hopes that “Supernatural” will be able to present a new image of Arab personalities to international viewers, in contrast to the prevailing stereotypes.
“I hope it highlights the talent we have here and that we have more opportunity to bridge the gap between East and West,” he said.