Made in Beirut: Syrians produce drama in Lebanon
While fighting continues to rage across Syria, closing in on the capital of Damascus, Syrian producers of television drama series are working hard to find alternative ways to deliver content to various Arab satellite stations. The Syrian television industry has grown so rapidly over the past few years that it employs a virtual army of Syrian actors, writers, directors, and technicians who depend on constant production for their livelihood.
Some production companies, such as Clacket Productions, are relocating their projects to Beirut.
Clacket is currently producing a comedy series written by Hazem Suleiman and directed by Osama al-Hamd that tells the story of two neighboring Syrian villages and the settling of a long list of scores to do with the Syrian presence in Lebanon.
Imad Najjar, a young Syrian writer and actor, has just put the finishing touches on a script for a series called Beautiful Illusions, a joint Syrian-Lebanese production that explores the complex relationship of the two countries and their people.
"The main plot centers around a young Syrian man called Jawad who comes from a village outside Aleppo,” Najjar told Al-Akhbar. “The series follows his story when the severe shortage of job opportunities compels him to travel to Beirut in 2002. The story revolves around several themes. It shows how his family in Aleppo live and reveals his relations with his friends, his mother, who is in Beirut, and his sweetheart.”
“All this goes on in the capital city that shows no mercy to those who arrive in it,” he said.
The series throws light on how the Syrians in Lebanon live and the racism they suffer at the hands of the Lebanese, some of whom try to take revenge on them for the mistakes of the Syrian government and army.
Najjar plans to direct the whole series, but first he is working on a pilot with a group of Syrian and Lebanese actors which he will use to sell the show.
The Syrian actors include Abdel-Hadi al-Sabbagh, Mohammad Hidaqi, Roula Dhibian, Reem Ali, Mohammad Khair al-Jarrah, Mohammed al-Rashi, Myriam Atallah, and Ayham al-Agha, while the Lebanese cast consists of Rafic Ali Ahmad, Talal El Jurdi, Bassem Mughniyeh, Takla Chamoun, and Marie Salameh.
According to Najjar, most of the actors listed above took part in the pilot. The role of Jawad was given to the Syrian actor, Mohammad Hidaqi. Najjar thinks that the Syrian actors Samar Sami and Dima Kandalaft might join the series.
Najjar maintains that he is still in negotiations with a Lebanese company over producing the series and that no final agreement has been reached. However, Al-Akhbar has discovered that New TV is hoping to produce it on the condition that they have exclusive rights to broadcast it next Ramadan.
So, despite the quagmire that Damascus seems to have fallen into, Syrian drama producers have created a window of hope.