Netflix is set to produce its very first drama series in the region, with the Lebanese Very Big Shot director Mir Jen Bou Chaaya taking the director's chair, and Jordanian scribe Bassel Ghandour, who scripted the Oscar-nominated Theeb, on writing duties.
The series is called Jinn, and is a supernatural drama focused on a group of teenagers (not to be confused with the 2013 Emirati horror film Djinn). It's currently in the very early stages of production, with no roles cast as yet, no final script and, currently, no exact duration or number of episodes confirmed. It will be an Arabic-language production (with subtitles).
The show, which a spokesperson promised would be "ambitious," is expected to shoot in multiple locations across the Middle East, with the cast also expected to be drawn from across the region - that "could" include the UAE, as well as the Jordanian and Lebanese homelands of the chief creative pairing, the spokesperson confirmed to The National.
The news comes just as Netflix's very first regional production, the stand-up special Adel Karam: Live in Beirut is about to launch on the streaming service this Thursday, March 1 (read our interview with Karam in tomorrow's (Tuesday February 27) issue of The National).
Mir Jen Bou Chaaya, who directed Very Big Shot, will direct new Netflix Original series Jinn:
Finding the right Middle Eastern stories
The flurry of production in the region comes after a protracted wait for locally produced original content from the streaming giant since it launched here in 2016, although it has previously signed up a variety of third-party Arabic content, including the Image Nation Abu Dhabi-produced thriller Zinzana.
The spokesperson assured us that this has simply been a matter of being determined to “find the right story,” and that we can expect to see plenty more Arabic content filtering through now that the ball is rolling, including Arabic content aimed at the Arab diaspora around the world as well as in the Middle East itself.
Netflix and OSN
Netflix certainly seems to be ramping up its activities in the region. Last week the streamer announced that it had entered into an agreement with regional pay-TV provider OSN that would see the Netflix service made available on OSN’s new set-top boxes, with customers able to pay their Netflix subscription separately or have it rolled into their monthly OSN bill.
Netflix currently has around 117 million subscribers around the world, and is on course to deliver original content at a rate of around two new titles every day for the rest of the year. The new Arabic shows will line up alongside international Netflix Original hits including the German drama Dark, the forthcoming Danish sci-fi The Rain and shows from Korea and Japan, as well as US and British favourites such as Stranger Things and The Crown.