‘Mo’ than just a show, Netflix’s TV series receives rave reviews

‘Mo’ than just a show, Netflix’s TV series receives rave reviews
The Netflix series, created by Mohammed Amer and Ramy Youssef, was released on the platform on Friday and has immediately captured the attention and hearts of millions of viewers worldwide. (Netflix/File)
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Updated 01 September 2022

‘Mo’ than just a show, Netflix’s TV series receives rave reviews

‘Mo’ than just a show, Netflix’s TV series receives rave reviews
  • Incisive and comedic, semi-autobiographical take on identity, belonging and displacement through a refugee Palestinian family in Texas

LONDON: The new TV series “Mo,” currently one of Netflix’s hottest shows, has received overwhelming acclaim from fans on the web for its ability to bring laughs and empathy to a Palestinian experience rarely acknowledged on the small screen.

The humorous and heartbreaking offering from American-Palestinian comedian Mohammed Amer is a heavily autobiographical tale about identity, belonging and displacement. It tells the story of a refugee Palestinian family in Texas who deal with the challenges of being undocumented, lacking both health insurance and working papers in today’s America.

The Netflix series, created by Mohammed Amer and Egyptian-American comedian Ramy Youssef, and produced by entertainment company A24, was released on the platform on Friday and has immediately captured the attention and hearts of millions of viewers worldwide.

Many took to social media to share their thoughts about the show, described by American writer and critic Caroline Framke as “a comedy with a fast-talking lionheart at its center, and as such, even this incredibly stressful time can vibrate with frissons of the ridiculous.”

One user said of the sitcom: “One of the most brilliant series I’ve seen in a long time, spoke to parts of me I didn’t know existed. Can’t wait for season 2!”

 

 

Another viewer praised the acting and the show’s originality. “The storytelling and character build is so delicious, I haven’t seen anything on screen like it. Halfway in I’m hoping ‘Mo’ gets picked up for a second season.”

 

 

The show has also been widely acclaimed for its ability to put Palestinian Americans on the cultural map.

Guardian’s columnist Arwa Mahdawi, who is of Palestinian heritage, described it as “a groundbreaking piece of television,” saying it managed to lift Palestine out of its negative connotation and bring it into pop culture.

Amer’s ability to engage with complex and often difficult topics in a funny, punchy and often resonant way is what really makes this show unique and worthy of the wave of positive critique.

As Mahdawi said: “I can’t tell you how significant it is to see being Palestinian treated with humanising humour. Mo of this please.”

Read Arab News' in-depth review of 'Mo' here.


The Kingdom vs Captagon: Arab News investigates war on drug in latest Deep Dive

The Kingdom vs Captagon: Arab News investigates war on drug in latest Deep Dive
Updated 02 February 2023

The Kingdom vs Captagon: Arab News investigates war on drug in latest Deep Dive

The Kingdom vs Captagon: Arab News investigates war on drug in latest Deep Dive

RIYADH: The rogue Assad regime in Syria and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon are the primary source of a potent and toxic drug that is destroying lives across the region, an Arab News investigation has revealed.

The 14-month investigation — “The Kingdom vs Captagon — was carried out by the Arab News Research and Studies Unit, whose team conducted exhaustive research, interviews and information gathering in Beirut, Jeddah, Makkah and Syrian Kurdistan.

Recognizable by the distinctive twin half-moons logo, which gives the drug its Arabic street name Abu Hilalain,or Father of the Two Crescents, Captagon pills are easy to make, readily available and cheap to buy.

“While Captagon is known widely across the region, the outside world is still only coming across its notoriety and persistent dangers to children and families,” said Tarek Ali Ahmad, head of the Research and Studies Unit.“As journalists, it is our duty to raise awareness and uncover the truth behind what is happening.”

Mohammed Al-Sulami, Arab News’s regional manager in Saudi Arabia, said: “The drug smuggling operations the Kingdom is facing, and the targeting of its youth, are not novel. This war started a long time ago, and the Saudi government has been ferociously fighting and harnessing all capabilities to protect its citizens.

“The continuous seizure of large quantities of Captagon is not only evidence that the country is being targeted,but is also testimony to the immense efforts of the competent authorities, who have been relentlessly tracking and capturing smugglers and dealers.”

The Kingdom vs Captagon
Inside Saudi Arabia's war against the drug destroying lives across the Arab world
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Netflix announces premier date for season 2 of Saudi TV show ‘Masameer County’

The new episodes of the smash hit animated series, which has taken the Kingdom by storm, will premier on March 2. (Netflix)
The new episodes of the smash hit animated series, which has taken the Kingdom by storm, will premier on March 2. (Netflix)
Updated 02 February 2023

Netflix announces premier date for season 2 of Saudi TV show ‘Masameer County’

The new episodes of the smash hit animated series, which has taken the Kingdom by storm, will premier on March 2. (Netflix)
  • The smash hit animated series, which took the Kingdom by storm when it debuted in 2021, will premier on the streaming platform on March 2
  • Viewers can expect the “usual suspects to get into more complex stories,” Malik Nejer, one of the creators of the series, told Arab News

LONDON: Netflix on Thursday announced the official release date for the second season of Saudi TV show “Masameer County,” and revealed some of the key art for the upcoming episodes.

The new episodes of the smash hit animated series, which has taken the Kingdom by storm, will premier on March 2.

“The second season of ‘Masameer County’ builds on the first season, only bolder and bigger,” Malik Nejer, one of the creators of the series, told Arab News.

“This season will see the usual suspects get into more complex stories, with a signature ‘Masameer’ comedic twist. We know the fans have been anxiously waiting and they are in for a treat.”

 

 

The new season will include six episodes featuring the same cast of beloved, mischievous characters audiences got to know and love in season one, producers said, who will get involved in various wild escapades, including a daring 24-hour mission, an unexpected elevator ride, and an out-of-control rocket launch.

Created by Nejer and Abdulaziz Almuzaini, “Masameer County” offers a darkly comic take on the evolving social landscape of Saudi Arabia and producers promise the second season will continue to reflect and address the process of change the Kingdom is undergoing.

The first season, which debuted on Netflix in July 2021, was praised for showcasing Saudi artistic creativity in a “shocking, stunning, hilarious and wild” way, while posing awareness-raising questions about sensitive themes through an “apolitical” approach.

“Masameer County” is produced as part of a five-year exclusive partnership signed by Netflix and Saudi animation studio Myrkott in 2020 to create Saudi-focused TV shows and films.


France weighs up ban on influencers promoting risky products, services

France weighs up ban on influencers promoting risky products, services
Updated 01 February 2023

France weighs up ban on influencers promoting risky products, services

France weighs up ban on influencers promoting risky products, services
  • Bill will stop content creators’ promotion of diet pills, crypto, cosmetic surgery
  • French parliament to debate wider regulatory proposal for influencers in spring

LONDON: France is considering making it illegal for influencers to promote dangerous products or services deemed risky to public health via social media platforms.

The French parliament is due to discuss a proposal by a group of MPs aimed at banning the promotion of plastic surgery and drugs, as well as risky financial investments, including cryptocurrencies.

“Influencers have a lot of weight, so they have a lot of responsibility. The rules are not sufficiently respected and they must be reinforced,” French economy chief Bruno Le Maire told French radio.

“There are interesting proposals coming from parliamentarians. We will try to agree on a common text.”

The draft follows a major debate among French politicians over the need to regulate the scandal-plagued industry.

In recent months, the government has pledged to address the issue and create a legal framework for influencers’ activity on social networks.

In a separate proposal, lawmakers focused on developing a legal definition covering influencers, as well as requiring online platforms to implement a “flagging feature” to report content relating to prohibited, aggressive and misleading commercial practices.

The document was reported to also include the establishment of a code of conduct and a legal requirement for influencers living abroad to have legal representation in France.

The text is due in the National Assembly in mid-March and will include the results of a consultation launched by Le Maire in January, which has gathered more than 12,000 contributions.

In recent years, online influencers have prospered as brands have looked to so-called content creators to capture the attention of consumers.

According to the media company Influencer Marketing Hub, more than 50 million individuals worldwide consider themselves to be influencers, with the Middle East home to over 200,000 content producers.

In 2022, the global creator economy was estimated to be worth $104.2 billion.

Along with traditional goods such as apparel items or food articles, content creators promote a host of questionable products and services to millions of followers on platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Snap, including diet pills, fake music festivals and counterfeit products.

Experts believe that the proposal advanced by French politicians might resonate with EU lawmakers since the bloc in recent months has sought to establish a legal framework for influencers and businesses that work with them.

“This legislation, if successful, could be the inspiration for an EU-wide regulation on the issue,” a spokesperson for international legal practice Osborne Clarke said.

Although the proposal represents one of the first attempts by a European country to better regulate the sector, other states around the world have already taken steps in the same direction.

In October, the Saudi government launched a new licensing system to properly monitor the influencer industry in the country.

Under the system, Saudi and non-Saudi content creators in the Kingdom who earn revenue by advertising on social media must apply for an official three-year permit from the General Commission for Audiovisual Media in order to promote products or services, as long as they do not violate the Kingdom’s laws or values.

Similarly, in the UAE content creators must apply for a permit and cannot promote products or services that are harmful to individuals, such as tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs.


Former colleagues, media leaders reflect on ‘legendary’ Rani Raad’s departure from CNN Worldwide

Former colleagues, media leaders reflect on ‘legendary’ Rani Raad’s departure from CNN Worldwide
Updated 01 February 2023

Former colleagues, media leaders reflect on ‘legendary’ Rani Raad’s departure from CNN Worldwide

Former colleagues, media leaders reflect on ‘legendary’ Rani Raad’s departure from CNN Worldwide
  • ‘We are all a part of the vision Raad created over a quarter of a century at the network,’ said former anchor John Defterious
  • "Rani enriched CNN’s shows with sponsors without compromising the integrity and editorial independence of the content,” says former colleague Rima Maktabi

LONDON: After Rani Raad, the most senior Arab to lead an international media group commercially, announced his departure from CNN, former colleagues and a number of MENA region’s media leaders reflect on his legacy and time in the role. 

Former CNN Emerging Markets editor and anchor John Defterios said that “all of the feature programming, plus the bureaus/content hubs in the Middle East, are a product of a vision (Raad) created over a quarter century at the network. 

“One could certainly make the case; it is his work that put the rising economies the MENA region on the global map.”

Rani Raad, who first joined CNN’s parent company Turner Broadcasting, New York, in 1998 as an intern, is leaving his role as president of CNN Commercial Worldwide, a global position the company introduced for the first time when he assumed it.

It is likely that Raad, whose CNN departure was announced Monday, will join another leading media group in a leadership position, where he will advise on international expansion, strategic direction and investments, media industry sources told Arab News. 

“There are plenty of possibilities for his next destination,” the sources said, “but it will most likely be in the Middle East region, where there is not only the ability to invest and expand, but also a new atmosphere of rational decision-making and hiring the best global talent to make sure investments are strategic and in the right direction.” 

In addition to having managed Turner Broadcasting’s portfolio of general entertainment and kids channels in Turkey, the Middle East and Africa, Raad led the commercial strategy for an international news and information portfolio, including CNNI, CNN en Español, CNN-IBN, CNN Turk and CNN Chile. He also oversaw advertising and content sales, business development, international research, and marketing activities. 

“It is hard to sum up 25 years of incredible memories and milestones in one email,” Raad wrote, Monday, in a message to CNN staff. 

“Every single day I have had the privilege of working for a brand that has such a profound impact on the world,” he added, “There is no way those business milestones would have been achieved without the ambition, skills, attitude and passion of those at CNN Commercial. And there is no way we could have done it without the dedication and integrity of our editorial colleagues.” 

Raad was appointed president of the CNN International Commercial group, London, in Feb. 2016, after leading the company as its Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer since its creation in 2013, according to a Warner Media press statement. 

At the time, Turner International President Gerhard Zeiler said that Rani had “a remarkable track record in leading a diverse portfolio of commercial initiatives across international markets.  

“He has built a new digital team that is the authority in this space and has transformed the commercial operation for CNN internationally, bringing in a new leadership team to deliver best-in-class and award-winning ad sales solutions as well as re-setting the licensing and content sales businesses to yield a suite of new branded initiatives around the globe.” 

Meanwhile, Faisal J. Abbas — Editor-in-Chief of Arab News described Raad as a “legend in his own right.”

“If Messi is the 'Greatest of All Time' in football, then Rani Raad would absolutely be the equivalent in running global news channels commercially,” said Abbas, who has known Raad for nearly twenty years. 

“I have first met Rani in the early 2000’s when I had just started as a media reporter for a sister publication in London. Many of the things I have learned and adopted today in building the Arab News brand and expansion, I have learned from Rani’s career as I witnessed how he turned around CNN International from a sideshow to a core business for the network,” he added.

Alarabiya's current UK bureau chief Rima Maktabi, who worked at CNN with Raad during the period from 2010 to 2012, said: "Oftentimes, big international news channels miss out on understanding certain cultures and politics in the Arab world. Yet Rani was able to explain the Arab world in depth to the editorial team, when needed."

"On the commercial side," Maktabi added, "Rani enriched CNN’s shows with sponsors without compromising the integrity and editorial independence of the content."

"With Rani’s leaving, CNN has lost yet another skilled professional who was able to add to the network’s commercial success worldwide."

During his tenure as commercial president, Raad delivered a data-driven strategy, equipped with digital capabilities, for all the group’s platforms, meeting market needs in over 200 countries. 

Raad first joined the company’s New York headquarters as an intern, right after graduating from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.  

Within five years of joining Turner Broadcasting, Raad, fluent in English, French and Arabic, got promoted to vice president for regional advertising sales in the Middle East, Africa and Southern Europe. 

In May 2020, he was named President for CNN Commercial Worldwide to expand CNN’s new business pathways. He worked closely with the sales department of Warner Media, oversaw CNN’s distribution activities globally, led the company’s business operations outside America, and maximized the news network’s business potential. 

He had told Arabian Business he was from a “media family.” His father, Ramzi, established the advertising agency TBWA/Raad in 2000, after about three decades in the field across EMEA, while his brother Reda heads the group. 

In recognition of his contributions to the media industry, including the initiation of CNN’s programming sponsorship initiatives Inside the Middle East, Marketplace Middle East, Business Traveller, and Eye on Series, the World Economic Forum named Raad in 2011 a Young Global Leader. 

Arabian Business named him in 2013 among the world’s most influential Arabs in its Power 500 list, ranking 71st, and listed him in 2015 the 13th most influential Arab under 40. 

Prior to that, Raad was shortlisted in 2010 for Media Professional of the Year at the Festival of Media Awards in Valencia.  

In a note to CNN staff, obtained by Arab News, CEO Chris Licht wrote that Raad, who is leaving Warner Bros. Discovery, will be replaced by Phil Nelson, who had been leading “the CNNIC team over the past weeks.” 

“I’m sure there are many questions about structure and how we will interact with the Sport team,” Licht wrote, “We will work through all this as soon as possible.” 

Raad concluded his farewell email to CNN staff: “Now it is the right time for me to move on to new challenges and pass that stewardship of this amazing group to new leadership.” 

“CNNIC, you got this!”

Arab News tried reaching several serving CNN members for comment. However, no comment was obtained and all attempts were deferred to the above statement. Rani Raad could not be reached for comment.


Spotify launches ‘Women of Iran’ playlist

Spotify launches ‘Women of Iran’ playlist
Updated 01 February 2023

Spotify launches ‘Women of Iran’ playlist

Spotify launches ‘Women of Iran’ playlist
  • Compilation celebrates Persian music history and amplifies female voices

LONDON: Spotify has launched a new playlist called “Women of Iran,” voicing its support for females protesting in the country.

Curated by Iranian American Leila Kashfi, DSP’s associate manager, artist partnerships, the playlist aims to amplify the voices of Iranian girls and women and their global allies, according to reports.

“For decades, the Islamic Republic has forced Iranians to suppress the beauty of Persian culture — a culture founded thousands of years ago in music, dance, romance, & tolerance,” Kashfi wrote on Instagram.

“The (Islamic Republic) targets artists because music fuels revolution.”

The compilation reflects core characteristics of Iran’s culture and celebrates the country’s past and contemporary music history, including songs specifically about the current protests.

“Women of Iran” includes songs by iconic Iranian singers, including Googoosh, Mahasti and Hayedeh, alongside artists Shervin Hajipour and Toomaj Salehi, who were both arrested and imprisoned after sharing music in support of the fight against the Islamic Republic’s injustices.

Hajipour, who received a whopping 95,000 submissions for The Grammys’ new best song for social change award, was released following international pressure back in October.

As a part of the playlist launch, Spotify is utilizing its video story feature that provides a platform for the Iranian creative community to speak on topics including culture, art and freedom of expression.

The algorithm-driven 50-song custom selection pulls from over 100 Iranian songs and will include five songs pinned to every user’s playlist, including Hajipour’s “Baraye” and Salehi’s “Soorakh Moosh.”

The other three are “Dobareh,” a collective song led by iconic artist Googoosh, “Soroode Zan” from popular singer Mehdi Yarrahi, and a song that translates to “Freedom Anthem” by a collective calling themselves Ethnic Musicians.

The playlist also includes diasporic Iranian artists, including Rana Mansour, Snoh Aalegra, and Iranian-Dutch singer Sevdaliza, who has released a number of songs in support of the ongoing revolution in Iran.