Controversial show ‘Jinn’ set to be first of many Netflix series for Middle East

The series follows the lives of some highschoolers in Jordan as they face some supernatural forces. (Supplied)
Updated 19 June 2019

Controversial show ‘Jinn’ set to be first of many Netflix series for Middle East

  • The series is the first Arabic language Netflix Original series
  • The company is preparing to produce two other Arabic Originals in the Middle East

Dubai: A new Netflix show which stirred up controversy over its portrayal of Middle Eastern communities, looks set to be the first of many series for the region.

The streaming service’s first original series in the region, “Jinn,” is a coming-of-age supernatural drama, and despite strong reactions to its content the company is already gearing up for further productions.

VP of international originals at Netflix, Kelly Luegenbiehl, spoke to Arab News about the company’s involvement in the region.

She said potentially region-sensitive shots in the series were portraying only one version of teenage life, and the drama was not meant to be representative or generalized.

“For our local series, our first goal is to delight viewers from that country and that region,” she added.

The series is reported to have angered some Jordanians, who said the production included immoral portrayals of the community.

Luegenbiehl believes Netflix is able to create better options with each production, as the feedback it receives helps to inform future decisions.

“We are still (in the) early days here, but we are growing, and I think what is great about that is that we can see how audiences are responding to our local language content as well as our international content.”

The company is planning to release two other Middle East originals, “Al-Rawabi School for Girls” and “Paranormal.”

Although the launch dates have not yet been decided, Netflix is already casting actors for “Al-Rawabi School of Girls.”

When defining a good story, she highlighted four features. Firstly, a completely new idea or original and captivating way of presenting a story that had been told before. Secondly, a clear vision and a strong voice of creators, thirdly, complex characters that could engage viewers, and finally, distinctive specificity and authenticity of a story.

She said the US company looked for good stories through various sources. Sometimes it reached out to filmmakers and creators, or people with ideas and stories approached Netflix. Company representatives also visited film and book festivals, and universities to look for stories worth telling.

“The creative talent in the region is really, really strong, so I think we will be continuing to produce things here in Arabic or other languages,” Luegenbiehl said.

“Jinn,” which premiered on Netflix on June 13, is a supernatural teenage drama which follows how Mira (Salma Malhas) and Keras (Hamzeh Okab) face Yassin (Sultan Alkhail) and Vera (Aysha Shahaltough) and try to stop the jinn from breaking into the human world.


What We Are Reading Today: Saving America’s Cities by Lizabeth Cohen

Updated 15 October 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Saving America’s Cities by Lizabeth Cohen

  • Saving America’s Cities is a dramatic story of heartbreak and destruction but also of human idealism and resourcefulness

Saving America’s Cities is a thoroughly researched biography/history of Ed Logue, a prominent leader in urban renewal and redevelopment.

In Saving America’s Cities, the prizewinning historian Lizabeth Cohen follows the career of Logue, whose shifting approach to the urban crisis tracked the changing balance between government-funded public programs and private interests that would culminate in the neoliberal rush to privatize efforts to solve entrenched social problems. 

A review published in goodreads.com said Logue’s era of urban renewal “has a complicated legacy: Neighborhoods were demolished and residents dislocated, but there were also genuine successes and progressive goals. Saving America’s Cities is a dramatic story of heartbreak and destruction but also of human idealism and resourcefulness.” 

The review said that the book “is a good contrast for those who have read Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, his highly engaging and Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Robert Moses, sometimes called ‘the master builder’ of New York.”