Ramadan serials hit hot buttons

World Brief

CAIRO — The big surprise of last month’s marathon Ramadan TV viewing were audacious Syrian soaps dealing with controversial subjects ranging from political corruption and adultery to drugs and violence.

Some episodes from Rasha Sharbatji’s soap on corrupt pols “Gazelles in the Forest of Wolves” reportedly reminded viewers of Syrian Prime Minister Mahmoud Al Zohbi, who committed suicide in May 2000 after being accused of corruption.

Series was shown on Syria’s two channels and broadcast on Moroccan, Tunisian and Yemeni TV and bought by Saudi Arabia’s MBC and NTV in Lebanon.

“The subject is certainly daring. We wondered if the censors were going to ban it,” Sharbatji says. “I certainly didn’t want to target any particular individual, but it’s all about the never-ending conflict between power and money.”

Other Syrian soaps delved into liberated femme issues like Youssef Rizk’s “The Money Lords” on the taboo topic of a woman’s extramarital relations.

Egypt provided about 50 series this year, but Gulf countries were in heavy competition, with 40 Syrian soaps in close pursuit.

Ramadan soaps were produced at an estimated cost of $360,000. But some producers for the first time chose to wait until after the Muslim month of fasting to deliver the goods.

Syrian director Firdaos Attassi told Arab-language newspaper Al Hayat that his new series on Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran would broadcast after Ramadan so “it can be followed more easily without so many commercial shows.”

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