After a ten-year period of civil war that has seen the fragmentation of Syrian society, the TV and film industry is ready to regain its former glory, featuring “bold themes” and “renewed spirit” for this year’s Ramadan, according to The National’s report on March 25th.

Once a thriving industry, celebrated for its gripping performances and rich exploration of the region’s issues that captivated audiences across the Arab world, the onset of the Syrian war in 2011 quashed production.

Damascus was formerly a notable hub, attracting hordes of talented filmmakers and actors. But with the increased instability and violence, as well as logistical and bureaucratic obstacles, filmmakers were forced to relocate production to Egypt or Lebanon.

But now all that is set to change.

President Assad has recently tried to change this, hosting a meeting on March 10th, to discuss ways to overcome the present obstacles. The meeting was held on the first night of Ramadan – a time when many TV serials and films are aired.

It is hoped that, following the meeting between President Assad and industry figureheads, production will be kickstarted. In attendance were famous stars, including Abbas al-Noury, Bassam Kousa, and Taym Hassan.

The celebrities’ meeting with Assad sparked huge criticism, with dissidents calling for a boycott of series and films showcasing these stars during this Ramadan season.

READ: Actors slammed by dissidents for Assad meeting

But many others positively embraced Assad’s efforts to mark Syria in the cultural spotlight once more. One of the stars in attendance, director Rasha Sherbatji, said, “The meeting was really aimed at seeing which ways Syrian drama could be supported.

“Syrian television is a big part of our lives and something the country is famed for. Its role in society is crucial. We spoke about some of the problems we are facing, including censorship and the stages that any filmmaker has to go through to get a production done in the country”.

The meeting appears to have had a positive impact already, with the 2024 Ramadan period featuring a plethora of new Syrian drama productions and audience engagement.

Amongst these is Shebatji’s new show, Badea’s Children, which explores the children of a street beggar who marries a rich factory owner. An example of Syrian TV’s willingness to confront socio-political issues, it explores themes of poverty and societal gender norms.

The series’ co-writer, Ali Wajih, said “Badea’s Children is the culmination and a new milestone on the writing journey myself and Yamen al-Hajali have been on for the past three years.

“We are completing our survey of Syrian society. We are documenting the psychological, social and economic changes in the country and its impact on broader society. That includes the fall of social norms and values, relationships and principles, even the change in how love is shown or lived. All of that is central to our themes. We wanted to depict this to the maximum”.

Badea’s Children is one of many productions breaking new ground, distancing itself from clichéd portrayals of Damascus life, and satisfying audiences’ demands for fresh topics.

Considering the Syrian population continue to endure great hardship, with the United Nations warning of a food crisis and the healthcare system on the brink, it is perhaps no surprise there is great demand for escapism in the world of TV.

The film and TV industry presents a key way for countries to boost their economies as well as international perception. Similarly to Syria, Morocco has recently been keen to breathe life into its film industry, announcing a plan to revamp cinemas across the country.

READ: Moroccan minister premiers plan to revamp cinemas

In addition to Badea’s Children, the newly-released drama Taj, is another show that has seen high acclaim this Ramadan. Set in Damascus under French colonial rule, famous actor Taym Hassan – who also attended Assad’s meeting – portrays a boxer during a tense time of resistance, friendships, and betrayal.

The show’s gritty depictions of life during the colonial period and its strong visuals were a hit with audiences in Syria and beyond. Celebrated director Samer Burqawi was driven to create an authentic insight into the historical period, with months spent recreating historically accurate neighbourhoods.

This new era for the Syrian TV industry has presented a much-needed revival which audiences have eagerly responded to, signalling an important step in reconnecting Syria’s history of storytelling disrupted through war.

The National

 

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