"Netflix" enhances its library with exclusive Egyptian productions to expand its Arab audience

Killer mummies, a haunted house, special effects and a sad soundtrack ... Several elements that the giant "Netflix" network relies on in the field of streaming broadcasting for the success of its first original Egyptian production, the series " Supernatural".

In the first week of November, Netflix released the Egyptian series Mystery and Excitement based on the best-selling fantasy novel series in Egypt "Metaphysics" by Egyptian writer 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 participate in the project," Ahmed Sharkawy, head of original Arab and African content in 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 different genres annually.

However, according to critics, the country's film production lost its luster in recent years, after the golden age between the 1940's and 1960's.

Therefore, many hope that the growth of streaming services will inject new life into the industry and expand the audience of Egyptian productions around the world.

"We are starting to see some filmmakers bypassing government and private funding agencies and turning directly to Netflix," says Marwan Kreidi, an Arab media expert and dean of Northwestern University in Qatar, noting that "this model is gaining strength in the Arab world."

The events of the new Egyptian series, consisting of six episodes, revolve around the supernatural adventures of the hematologist Rifaat Ismail, played by the young Egyptian actor Ahmed Amin.

During the series, Ismail, together with his Scottish colleague Maggie McKillop, played by the Lebanese-British actress Razan Jamal, tries to solve mysterious mysteries, whether on the outskirts of Cairo or deep in the Libyan desert.

"We wanted to create high-quality content without losing the Egyptian spirit to work," said young Egyptian director Amr Salama, who has participated in many international film festivals.

"We did not want our work to look like an American series dubbed into Arabic," added Salama, director of "Sheikh Jackson". "Even with special effects, legends and frightening tales, we wanted him to be an original Egyptian."

On social media, Egyptian reactions to the series varied, with many mocking the use of special effects, while others praised the representative performance of the main actor Ahmed Amin.

Amin appears during the events of the series, wearing medical glasses and speaking in a faint voice as well as smoking cigarettes constantly, and the irony is that this actor became famous in Egypt through a comedy program he was broadcasting on the Internet before he was produced and shown on television after his success.

"The starring role in the series Supernatural coincides with the challenge of transferring the Egyptian drama to the international stage," Amin told AFP.

"It is a test to see if we can compete and attract audiences outside the Arab world," he said.

Credi likens the experience of "Netflix" storming the Arab markets to the success of the "HBO" television network in the United States in attracting viewers to prominent programs such as "The Sopranos" and "The Wire".

"Internet broadcasters have removed the limits of the Egyptian TV drama concept," Kreedi said.

Credi noted that streaming services have created a classy middle class of entertainment consumers.

He added, "The big change ... is to blow up the rhythm of television consumption and to break up the viewing unit from the family to the individual."

"Now everyone watches what they want, anytime they want ... on a set of devices," he said.

Perhaps the recent praise of Arab American actors and writers in Hollywood to critics has been a contributing factor in highlighting original Arab works on these networks.

Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek won the Best Actor Oscar last year for portraying the singer Freddy Mercury in the movie "Bohemian Rhapsody".

The comedy series "Ramy", produced by the "Hulu" network, starring Egyptian-American actor Ramy Youssef, also won a Golden Globe award at the beginning of this year.

The number of subscribers to "Netflix" in the region is 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 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 shines a spotlight on the talent we have here and that we have a greater opportunity to bridge the gap between East and West," she said.


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