Monday, October 6, 2008

Nasser is back: a Series

Among the most commented TV series of Ramadan 08, Esmahan and Nasser, two classical productions based on a winning combination: a pan-Arab production based on historical facts appealing to a pan-Arab audience.

After the highly contested series about king Faruk’s life last year, the launching for this Ramadan season of a TV series dedicated to the great Egyptian leader was due to be a succession of passionate episodes.

In fact, the first protest started as soon the project for a TV series about Nasser was announced. Angry comments were made at that time, about the pro-nasserite ideas of the script writer or the Syrian nationality of the film maker.

Choosing the actor for the main character was also a problem, as was shooting various episodes in Egypt. And new troubles came about when the series was achieved, as no major pan-Arab TV station seemed to be interested by a product althought it was very similar to the highly acclaimed King Faruk of the previous Ramadan! At the last time, even the official Egyptian TV decided not to air the series, giving as a pretext that the holy month of Ramadan was not a time for “serious” TV programs!

For many commentators of the Arab press, such a decision was obviously political since the actual political leaders of the country were not interested in comparisons between their popularity and that of Nasser.

Finally, Nasser’s saga ended, at least temporarily, with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood complaining bitterly about the way the series described the role played by the organisation in the 40’ and 50’ in Palestine.

Nothing new in fact as the negative painting of the political Islam is as old as the first “political soap operas” on the Egyptian TV, namely the very famous Hilmiyya Nights’ at the end of the 80’.

As usual, the link to the more elaborated post in French. About "Layali hilmiyya", The Politics of Television in Egypt, par Lila Abu-Lughod (University of Chicago Press 2004)is a must, but also look at "New Approaches to Popular Culture in the Middle East and Beyond (University of California Press, 2000), by Walter Ambrust.

Watching the reference moovie, Nasser 56, is possible on the Net following that link.

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