Times are changing and the Arab media is starting to be considered a mature media system, if it is able to gain the prestigious Emmy International Award.
“Al Ijtiyah” (The invasion) is the first ever Arab musalsal (soap opera) to win such a famous and international prize, beating the very well known telenovelas as the Brasilian ” Paradise of the tropical forest ” which was in the final shortlist. “Al Ijtiyah” is the perfect example of a Panarab production: many actors come from Syria, the production company is from Jordan and the director Shawqi Al Majiri from Tunisia. As for the story, it is focused on Palestine: an impossibile love affair between a Palestinian man and an Israeli woman, the set being real events happened in the Middle East in the past years, like the Israeli raid and violent massacre of the Palestinian population of Jenin in 2002.
Placing the love story in a real setting and tackling political and social issues -the so called “hot potato”- is something that Arab musalsalat have been doing since the beginning of this TV genre, created in the early 60s thanks to former Egyptian president Gamal Nasser. But in the past years the popularity of the Egyptian TV drama is decreasing, being it very much “star-centered” and tailored on big actors/actresses without paying too much attention to other important details, like the scriptwriting of the story, the rest of the cast, the quality of the production, etc.
Now other minor industries are challenging the monopoly of Egypt in this genre: first of all, Syria which in the past years has produced lot of high-quality drama (like the work of Najdat I. Anzour). Now also Jordan and Palestine are doing their best to compete, and apparently with a lot of success.
Arab Telemedia, the production company who’s behind the Emmy awarded musalsal, is not new to quality drama production, and also not new to polemics. Few years ago they produced “Tariq ila Kabul” (The road to Kabul), a very high quality musalsal dealing with the history of Afghanistan, from the USSR to the American occupation, passing by the Taleban and Bin Laden. The soap was prevented from broadcasting when it was already on air on Panarab channel MBC.
“Al Ijtiyah” had similar problems: nobody among the Arab channels would have bought it for the very sensitive topic it was tackling, except from Lebanese station LBC which aired it in Ramadan 2007.
We all hope that, after getting this important international prize, the musalsal will be aired as all the other high quality musalsalat that have been produced in the past years in the Arab region and prevented from broadcasting.