Arab anime hero gives more animated view of Saudi culture

Updated 12 November 2016
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Arab anime hero gives more animated view of Saudi culture

JEDDAH: The desert plains of Saudi Arabia and the colorful, all-action "anime" pop culture of Japan seem like they are worlds apart.
But that’s not the case with Desert Knight — the star of a new, wildly popular video trailer that manages to fuse these two seemingly disparate cultures.
The character was devised by a Jeddah-based media company, along with its Japanese partner, with the aim of both entertaining global audiences and giving a broader insight into the Arab world.
The three-minute trailer — set in ancient times in the Arabian desert — gives a brief introduction into "Desert Knight", telling the tale of a boy whose town is ransacked by bandits and his family killed.
Filmed in the Japanese anime style, the film shows how the boy steps up to challenge the tyranny of the bandits – promoting qualities of peace, teamwork and family.
The trailer was made by the Jeddah-based ARINAT — part of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), which also publishes Arab News — along with Japan-based GAINAX studio.
News of the Desert Knight promo has been carried in more than 100 news outlets in 14 countries, including the US, Japan and China. The YouTube video has received 80,000 views, with 300,000 visitors to the Facebook page, ARINAT says.
This is all good news given one of the wider aims of the Desert Knight promo, the media company says.
“I believe animation is a great tool to introduce Saudi Arabia to the world, and to the global audiences,” Essam Bukhary, executive manager of ARINAT, told Arab News.
Bukhary was speaking from ARINAT's office in Jeddah, where a team of artists was busy at work on its animated productions. The media company specializes in animation, video games and comics, and is also working on 3D-style productions similar in style to those made by Disney or Pixar.
The Desert Knight video is subtitled in Japanese — a language in which Bukhary is fluent thanks to his 19 years spent in the East Asian country, most recently as Saudi Cultural Attaché to Japan.
Given that, Bukhary is already well versed in bridging the Saudi and Japanese cultures — something he is continuing with Desert Knight.
“What we are trying to do is to deliver a new message about Saudi Arabia to the world, to global audiences, in innovative ways,” he said.
“We hope that we will not only transmit knowledge of animations and video games from Japan to Saudi Arabia but also deliver something new from Saudi Arabia to the world.”
Bukhary said there is strong demand for Japanese-style animation in the Arab world. Popular characters from Japanese series like Grendizer and Captain Tsubasa are already popular in the region, he said.
“There is a big need for Arab animation in the region — there is a market there,” Bukhary said. “They love Japan because of those heroes, who came from the animation.
“What we are trying to do is to create Saudi heroes, to create Arab heroes that might be (good) for children, for young generations, to learn from them how to be honest… how to serve your country, your community.”
Amr Almaddah, the chief operating officer at ARINAT, said that the project aims to help change perceptions of Saudi Arabia internationally.
“One of the misconceptions in the world is that… they only have one image about Saudi Arabia, (that the people here have only) one way of dressing,” said Almaddah.
“So the main idea of our project is that we can visualize Saudis in different environments, in different settings… So people will be able to understand Saudis better, can sympathize with their causes and ideas more.”
Decisions over the future of the Desert Knight — and whether it may eventually become a movie or TV series — are yet to be made, and depend partly on the audience reaction to the trailer.
But Bukhary said ARINAT's Japanese partners are “are keen to do it”, and that it has attracted offers from Japanese investment firms.
If the project is carried forward it would, of course, be a continuation of the rich history of storytelling from the region.
“Remember that the Arab world is the origin of the Arabian Nights,” Bukhary said. “So why don’t we do it again?”


Facebook accused of discrimination with job ad targeting

Updated 19 September 2018
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Facebook accused of discrimination with job ad targeting

  • It charges that job ads on Facebook targeted male users only
  • Facebook lets advertisers target ads on the basis of gender and age, which is against the law in America

WASHINGTON: A complaint has been filed with the US government accusing Facebook and 10 other companies of using the platform’s job ad targeting system to discriminate on the basis of gender.
The complaint was announced Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union, a union called the Communications Workers of America and a labor law firm, on behalf of three female job seekers and a group of “thousands” of members represented by the union.
It charges that job ads on Facebook targeted male users only. It also alleges that most of the listings were for jobs in male-dominated fields, so women and non-binary users were excluded from seeing these ads.
Facebook lets advertisers target ads on the basis of gender and age, which is against the law in America, the complaint reads.
“I shouldn’t be shut out of the chance to hear about a job opportunity just because I am a woman,” said Bobbi Spees, one of the three women named in the complaint.
Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said in a statement to CNNMoney that there is no place for discrimination on Facebook.
“It’s strictly prohibited in our policies, and over the past year we’ve strengthened our systems to further protect against misuse,” Osborne said.
Facebook will defend itself once it has reviewed the complaint, he added.
The ACLU noted that online platforms such as Facebook are generally not liable for content published by others.
“But in this case, Facebook is doing much more than merely publishing content created by others,” the advocacy group argued.
“It has built the architecture for this discriminatory marketing framework, enabled and encouraged advertisers to use it, and delivered the gender-based ads according to employers’ sex-based preferences.”
Last month the US Department of Housing and Urban Development accused Facebook of breaking the law by letting landlords and home sellers use its ad-targeting system to discriminate against potential buyers or tenants.
Facebook responded by cutting more than 5,000 ad-targeting options to prevent advertisers from discriminating on the basis of traits such as religion or race.