Artists concerned with decline in Jordan's Bedouin dramas

Actor Yasser al Masri in 'Nimer Bin Adwan'. [File]

Actor Yasser al Masri in 'Nimer Bin Adwan'. [File]



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At a time when satellite TV channels regularly feature dramas produced in the region, Jordanian artists describe the quality of the kingdom's dramas as "modest" when compared with productions in other Arab countries.

The reason for the lower quality is not a lack of talent, however, as a large number of Jordanian artists work in other countries, such as Syria, where the volume of production is greater.

"Up until a few years ago, Jordanian companies produced tens of soap operas and dramas that were dominated by Bedouin and historic themes, and they swept Arab television screens," Saleh Asaad, a media expert specialising in arts and culture, said. "The most recent productions were 'Nimer bin Adwan' and 'Ras Ghlais', which received wide acclaim on Arab satellite channels. However, production soon declined."

The production of Jordanian Bedouin drama fell from an average of four series per year in the mid-1990s and into the mid-2000s, to one series in 2010. No proposals have been submitted yet for a new production for 2011.

Asaad cited weak support from the ministry of culture as one reason, as well as the reluctance of production companies to work independently because of the high costs and a lack of financial incentives from the government.

Jordanian director Bassam Al Masri said the government needs to develop a clear strategy for national arts and build awareness about the importance of Jordanian dramatic series.

Tarek Masarweh, the newly appointed Minister of Culture, recently announced that the government is working on a plan to return the Jordanian arts and culture scene to its former glory, especially in national songs and dramas.

He said the ministry is building a network of institutions composed of the ministry, Amman municipality, universities, and the Association of Artists to support the arts. The ministry would also establish a fund to support literary and artistic works.

Hanan Dughmosh, media spokeswoman for the Ministry of Culture, told Al-Shorfa, "Support for Jordanian songs, and for Bedouin and historic artistic production, takes a large share of the activities of the ministry this year, and the government believes that Bedouin drama serves a cultural function that showcases the folklore and local values of Jordanian society."

The ministry also met with the Association of Artists in late February to examine the causes of the decline in artistic production.

"The ministry will actively pursue the formation of a committee to study how local drama can return to its former glory so it can present the values of the Bedouin community, notably generosity, virility, courage, fairness and tolerance," Dughmush said.

Atef al-Akarbawi, a producer, said dramatic art productions, especially ones with Bedouin themes, require large budgets. He said that the public and private sectors need to share in production costs because the private sector cannot cover those costs by itself.

He said, "To rely solely on producers from the private sector places a heavy weight on their shoulders and saddles them with high financial burdens which force them to borrow to complete their production work."

Rania Ismail, a Jordanian artist who produced the serial comedy "Dababees Zaal wa Khadra," said that the producer often covers the costs "out-of-pocket" to save a project.

Hussein Khatib, head of the Jordanian Association of Artists, told Al-Shorfa it costs more than $20,000 per episode and $300,000 for a series of 15 episodes for a Bedouin drama. Costs could go higher depending on the quality of the script and the production demands.

Khatib said the high costs are a result of the quality of production and filming locations, which are usually in a desert environment and require special equipment such as horses. The cost of clothing and technical equipment is also higher compared with a typical drama. There is an additional need to hire a wide range of actors because Bedouin drama reflects the culture of an integrated community.

Actor Zuhair Nubani told Al-Shorfa, that another problem is that local production companies "are not doing a good job of marketing what little is produced these days in Arab countries or elsewhere."

Nubani said Jordan lacks a strong film industry compared with other Arab countries like Egypt and Morocco. He believes government institutions concerned with culture must support local production of drama given the abundance of movie scripts and the variety of actors, directors and producers.





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