غلاف رواية جنة على الأرض

دار الآداب تصدر رواية “جنة على الأرض” في معرض الشارقة الدولي للكتاب


يسرني دعوتكم لحضور حفل التوقيع روايتي الجديدة جنة على الارض في معرض الشارقة الدولي من الساعة ٥-٨ يوم الجمعة 7 نوفمبر

دعوة حفل توقيع رواية جنة على الأرض

دعوة حفل توقيع رواية جنة على الأرض

عن الرواية:

جنّة وجيهان وجمال وزيد، أبطال يعيشون صراعات تتعلّق بوقائع جديدة أنتجها التطوّر العلمي الهائل: البقاء في مرحلة الشباب الدائم، العودة إلى الطفولة مع محو الذاكرة من أجل صنع حياة جديدة. إعادة استنساخ لأحبّاء فُقدوا… ومسائل أخرى لن تكون جزءًا من الخيال، بل ستصبح قريبًا واقعًا لا مفرّ منه. تتصارع الرغبات وتتناحر الشخصيّات، لتؤكّد هذه الرواية أنّ الإنسان هو الإنسان، وأنّ الأجيال نفسها تشرب من الكأس نفسه.

حين يصبح العمر البشري بلا حدود… #الشباب_الدائم

غلاف رواية جنة على الأرض

غلاف رواية جنة على الأرض

Theeb's Crew

The Arab Observer interviews Yanal Kassay


When they mentioned the film and Naji, there was a silence that came over all of us. We weren’t sure if we’d heard correctly. And then we started yelling and cheering. It was an amazing moment.

Jordan has many young talents who carved their expertise in the film industry in the past few years. Yanal Kassay worked on international productions including hollywood blockbusters such as The Mummy Returns and The Hurt Locker. He took on the challenge of bringing his skills into local production. The success of Theeb in Venice Festival this years may give us an idea about how far the Jordanian Film industry reached. It has only been a decade, but things are shaping up for a brighter future. I had the chance to interview Yanal and ask him about his experience in the film industry, his work on Theeb, and how he sees Jordan’s film industry going forward.

Theeb Film Poster

Theeb Film Poster

Fadi: Hi Yanal, you must be very excited about the big success of Theeb in Venice. We are all equally excited back in Jordan for the film and for the best director award for Naji Abu Nowar. Tell me more, where you there at the festival? did you expect this success? and what was your reaction when first new about the award?

Yanal: I’m extremely excited about the successes of Theeb so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it is received in the other festivals and screenings. We were there – I didn’t want to miss its global premier. We – the entire crew – put so much of ourselves into making this film. It was a true project of passion for a lot, if not all, of us.

Quote1As to whether we, or I, expected this success, it’s a difficult one to answer. I turned down a lucrative job on another film because I believed in Theeb – I believed in the producers and in Naji. I loved the story and their vision, and the fact that it really felt like a Jordanian project. I knew it was an ambitious film, I knew they had been working on developing it forever, and had even approached me long in advance of preproduction. And at the time I was telling people I had made my decision because I believed the film would do something no other Jordanian film had done. So in that regard, I expected it would be a success.

Yanal Kassay on set

Yanal Kassay on set

But you always wonder how that will translate, how it will be received. You stress out about it. And we were very stressed out up until the screening. Watching a film you put so much into, it’s difficult to be objective, so a lot of it comes down to the reaction of the audience to make you realize it was all worth it. But the reaction, the standing ovation, having the main cast there and seeing their reactions to all of it – that was all the success we needed. We were very proud at that moment. The audience surrounded the cast with a standing ovation. And then to see the utter joy and pride in the faces of these great guys who believed in and gave so much to the film, to see how touched they were by the reaction – that was overwhelming.

When we went to the award ceremony, we didn’t know what to expect, but we didn’t invest emotionally in a win, in that we didn’t want to get our hopes up, but it’s difficult – you can’t help but hope. When they mentioned the film and Naji, there was a silence that came over all of us. We weren’t sure if we’d heard correctly. And then we started yelling and cheering. It was an amazing moment. The screening, seeing many of the crew and the cast in Venice, the award ceremony – they were all such amazing moments.

Fadi:  Yanal, you played the role of the 1st Assistant Director, and Associate Producer on Theeb. I am curious to know more about the production phase and your role. In brief, tell me: What does a 1st Assistant Director/Associate Producer do?

How long did the production take? How smoothly did it go? What were the challenges you faced to bring another Jordanian film up to life?

Yanal: It is difficult to describe what an assistant director or associate producer do in brief, partly because there’s nothing about the role that isn’t complicated. The relationship between an AD and the director is complicated, and it’s completely different from the relationship between an AD and a producer, which is also complicated. It is also difficult to explain because it is very project-based. A lot depends on the rest of the team, particularly the producers and directors, as well as on the experience-level of the rest of the crew.

Yanal Kassay on set

Yanal Kassay on set

A friend of mine once said that the AD department is like the nervous system of the film, and that’s not wrong. I basically have to know everything regarding the other departments. I knew the script by heart – Naji and I would almost have our own scene-based language on set, and how we intended to shoot it. I will decide what scenes we’re shooting when and I’ll know why (because you generally don’t shoot a film in sequential order). I’ll organize tech recess, make-up tests, I’ll know when actors are available, when locations are ready, I’ll look at weather and light changes throughout the shoot, holidays – all of that goes into scheduling. And budget, which is Diala, will play a heavy role in all of that too.

I also have to be able to make very quick decisions that will affect the rest of the shoot, because we have working hours to keep in mind, and a certain number of days in which we can shoot. So if the producers would come to me while filming and tell me that based on the edit so far, we need to fix something, then I might have to wrap the crew on the spot so that we can bring them out the next day. Certain things you can’t fix – sand storms are not very predictable, and when we shot at one of the wells, a storm suddenly hit and we were at risk of a flash flood – we had one of the Bedouins that was helping us specifically keep an eye on water levels on the upper rocks, and eventually we had to evacuate the entire crew on that day. And then we need to figure out how we can get that day back.

There are so many stories of challenges we faced, but we faced them as a team, and that’s what was important.

Quote2Theeb took about 5 weeks to shoot. We could have used more, but there are budget issues to take into account, as well as crew availability and so on. About how smoothly it went, I mentioned before it was an ambitious project. It was going to be extremely tough because of that, but the crew made it all possible. The passion that went into the project by Naji, Basel Ghandour and Rupert Lloyd (producers) was infectious. Our executive producer (Nadine Touqan) and the co-producers (Laith Majali and Nasser Kalaji) were heavily involved too. The whole crew believed in the film, and made serious compromises in order to achieve that vision. We became a family. That happens a lot with filming crews, but Theeb was beyond. We lived in a camp together in tents and became very close. Even still, all of the crew that worked on Theeb is a family. And I like to think that everyone that didn’t work on it wished they did. It was that kind of job – incredibly tough, but so worth all of the sweat and blood that went into it.

Fadi: I checked your IMDB profile and realised you have impressive past record working on top notch international films. Your portoflio lists The Hurt Locker (2008), Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and Fair Game (2010). How did you manage to secure roles in such big blockbusters and how did that help in shaping up your expertise and carve your skills to take on Theeb’s challenge? How do you compare Theeb to such big budget films? and how do you compare your experience working in a Jordanian film vs a Hollywood one? 

Yanal: Personally, I loved working on Transformers because I’d never flown in a helicopter before, but that’s not what makes a film important. It’s not about having a huge budget. It’s more about having a story to tell and the need to tell it and making do with what you have to deliver the best film you can.

Quote3I wanted to work on a film that I could see being someone’s favorite movie. And as many attempts as there were, Naji’s passion for and knowledge of cinema was a natural draw for me. Now I primarily work on independent and Jordanian films. Theeb was the start of that. I’m proud of the work I’ve done on the big-name productions, but I like to think I’ve reached a point where I can choose to work on films that I love, with people who have a vision and who want to go somewhere with it.

When I started working in film, there wasn’t a huge industry in Jordan, but even then your performance on every film was likely to affect whether or not you got that next job. We do this job because we love it, but not everyone is cut out to work on a film. It might seem glamorous, but it really isn’t – it’s a lot of hard work. Grueling hours and sometimes intense weather conditions, and you have to keep going.

It’s also very difficult to have a life when you work in film. It takes up so much time and energy, and you rarely will see your friends who don’t work in the field – it’s difficult to explain to people that it really is a full-time job like no other. And then when you’re done with a project, you’re done – you become a family struggling together like that, and then often you won’t see some of those family members again. It’s not only physically and mentally hard work, but it can be emotionally exhausting as well.

Much of the work in the early days were on big foreign productions. In fact, I worked on The Mummy Returns back in 2000. But as it went on, more people in Jordan started thinking, “I can do that,” and so a real Jordanian industry started to blossom in parallel with a surge of foreign productions filming in Jordan.

Theeb, a local production

Theeb, a local production

But a lot of Jordanian films weren’t getting the top Jordanian crew – the crew that had sharpened their skills on the international productions. It’s still the case that some of our best crew will generally take the big-budget Hollywood job over the local production, and I can understand that. But I didn’t want to have learned the skills I learned on those projects and not use them to be part of something that could be great. Hopefully the success of Theeb will change people’s minds on that. It already has. It was a first for a lot of us and in a lot of ways – it was an opportunity for us to invest ourselves and our skills into something special and something ours.

Fadi: We have many young talents in Jordan. The Royal Film Commission has done a tremendous job in building the capacity of talented Jordanians in the field. We have seen few features in the past couple of years but the industry is yet to mature. How do you assess the state of the film industry in Jordan? What would you say are the major highlights of the past few years and the challenges ahead of us? and how much do you think Theeb’s success will help in pushing the industry forward?

Quote4Yanal: We’re still in a place right now I think where collaboration is key more than competition. A lot of people are guarded when it comes to their positions or the films they’re working on. I think we need to continue to build a strong crew and to talk to each other. If I think someone has the potential to be a great AD, I’ll try to pull them in that direction. My biggest competition have become my closest friends. And we protect each other.

Yanal Kassay with the director Naji Abu Nuwwar

Yanal Kassay with the director Naji Abu Nowar

At the same time, young filmmakers have to keep in mind that it’s a lot of hard work, and the more experienced you become, the more responsibilities you will have to take on, the more difficult the work becomes. A lot of people I meet now sell themselves as ADs who have no experience or aren’t very good. That doesn’t make Jordan look good when someone comes here looking for an AD and someone wants it but refuses to appreciate the work and years that goes into it. It takes more than a copy of Excel, a degree, or just one experience on a commercial before you can call yourself an assistant director.

In my mind, we also should be concerned about becoming a factory of film. Heart will always be important in the creation of great works – and the fewer powerful projects will do so much more for us than a slew of weak productions. My hope is that Theeb will put that in people’s minds, and will also inspire a lot more Jordanians to reach for something great and to make great cinema.

Fadi: The film hasn’t hit Jordan’s cinemas yet. We are too eager to watch it after this huge success. When do you expect it to be on the big screen? 

Yanal: It’s difficult to explain to people why it has to hit the festival circuit first, but it’s for the best. I’m not the one to ask. I’m very excited to see how it is received. I’ll be in the back of the audience at more than one screening.

More than any other screening, I’m looking forward to the one that brings it to Jordan.

Yanal Kassay on set

Yanal Kassay on set

Fadi: It is also participating in Abu Dhabi Film Festival this year which is happening next week. Theeb’s showing is going to be on October 26 and October 28. I will be in Abu Dhabi in that period and will make sure to attend the film and write my own review. How important are such film festivals to the success of a new film? 

Yanal: Hugely important. The amount of people I’ve met in Jordan who have heard about it is overwhelming. For such a tiny project with such huge ambitions, the word-of-mouth news about it is so great. I’m happy that before it comes home, it gets the proper appreciation abroad, so that by the time it gets here people know it’s hopefully worth watching, and remember that it’s ours.

If you are in the UAE during the Abu Dhabi film festival, don’t miss the chance of watching this great film. Book your ticket now.

Queen Rania with Becky Anderson on CNN

Queen Rania: Extremism is everyone’s battle


Queen Rania with Becky Anderson on CNN

Queen Rania with Becky Anderson on CNN

Queen Rania sums it up in this short interview with Becky Anderson. Extremism has been eating us up for few decades now. It is no longer about our image in the west but more about protecting of what is remaining of our countries and societies. We need all to stand up and think.

http://edition.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/bestoftv/2014/10/19/exp-queen-rania-we-should-all-be-concerned-about-extremism.cnn

Career Expert Bayt

How to Change Your Career to a Career You Love


Career Expert Bayt

Career Expert Bayt

Posted originally on Bayt’s blog.

I hated composition assignments at school. I was never good in languages classes like I was good in math or science. When I wrote something down, I used to make sure no one reads it, and when that happened, I would die of embarrassment.

I felt more comfortable with numbers than letters. Numbers didn’t entail self-expression; they didn’t push me out of my comfort zone as a shy kid. I also had an interest in arts. Drawing was my subtle way of self-expression at that age.

Things changed with time.

I studied Computer Science at college as a natural consequence of my scientific interest and the popularity of the field at the time. It wasn’t my first choice though; I wanted to study architecture thinking it would satisfy my interest in both numbers and arts. If you live in Jordan then you must know the Jordanian system of universities’ admission. Despite getting 92.8% in the Tawjihi (Jordanian High School degree), I didn’t meet the requirement of studying Architecture that year (1996), which was set at 95% at the University of Jordan. So Computer Science emerged as a second option, and I found myself searching for an artistic side to that discipline. I found it in the colorful pages of the web. And so, trying to avoid sticking to becoming a programmer, I worked hard to become a web designer, but I also fell short because I had no Graphic Design background. I ended up being a User Interface (UI) developer for many years after that.

I enjoyed the first few years of working as a UI developer. The combination of HTML code snippets with Photoshop slicing and Style Sheets coloring met my interests in logic and design. But it didn’t satisfy me completely. Maybe it had to do with the nature of the business of the company I worked for at the time. There was no emphasize on creativity, the design had a secondary priority, and thus I ended up feeling like I was doing a soulless job. A couple of years down the road, I was desperate to break off and look for something else!

Working online helped me explore my writing and communication skills. As part of my job as a UI developer, I had the internet open to discussing and debating issues that mattered. I used Yahoo Message Boards at the time to debate a TV series I used to love (not telling you which one it was). I became more comfortable in expressing myself with words. I felt that my background in Computer Science helped me in shaping logical arguments. And soon, letters started to appeal to me, and language started to become dearer to my heart than numbers.

I launched my own blog in 2006 and started expressing myself like I never had before. I had so much to say and didn’t shy from that. Language wasn’t my strongest asset, but I made up for that by being genuine and original in the ideas I wanted to communicate. With time, my writing skills improved and so did my way of thinking. Suddenly, it became apparent to me that language is larger than numbers, and that thinking is bigger than logic. Playing with letters became much more fulfilling than playing with numbers, and coming up with an original idea started to make me happier than solving a mathematical equation.

After that, I decided to switch from Web Design into Social Media where I could do more writing and communication than coding and coloring. I was also able to collect my ideas and write my first novel “Aroos Amman” (The Bride of Amman) which witnessed success since it saw the light in 2012. The passion of connecting with people grew within me and I found myself longing to write more and more and shape myself into a fiction writer. I got a scholarship and went back to school. I did an MA in Creative Writing and Critical Thinking at the University of Sussex in the UK and graduated with a Merit.

During the book signing of Aroos Amman

During the book signing of Aroos Amman

(During the signing of my first book, Aroos Amman)

Today, I am waiting for the release of my second book “Janna Ala Al Ard” (Heaven on Earth), a science fiction story that builds on all the things I love: science, philosophy, exploration, language, logic, design, communication, achievement, and creativity.

I guess it came with age. At 36 years old now, I find myself passionate about many different things in life. I have more appetite for exploration and a much bigger arsenal of skills to portray things the way I want them to be.

My tumultuous career taught me that we may not always get exactly what we want, but, with time we learn to broaden our horizon and pick up whatever falls in our paths. We just have to keep on marching.

من حفل زفاف مثليين في مصر

مهزلة تامر أمين: حين تمتهن دعوات الحفاظ على الأخلاق كرامة الإنسان #القبض_على_المثليين


تامر أمين يثير الشارع المصري بعرض فيديو قصير لمجموعة من الشباب في حفل يدعي أنه حفل زفاف لرجلين تم في مصر ويدعو المصريين إلى هبة للوقوف ضد ما سماه المجاهرة في الفجور لحماية الأخلاق المصرية. تنتفض المباحث العامة المصرية، والتي يبدو أنها مازالت تعمل بنفس آلية وعقلية نظام مبارك، وتقبض على سبعة من الشباب حضروا الحفل وتحولهم إلى الطبيب الشرعي للكشف عنهم والتأكد من أنهم “مثليين”! يكشف الطب الشرعي على المتهمين ويخرج بتقرير يقر بأنه لم يظهر على أي منهم ممارسة اللواط.

مجموعة من الأخبار المجنونة التي تلخص تفاهة الفكر المجتمعي السائد وجهله لمبادىء الفكر السليم، عدم معرفته بماهية الجنسانية، وغياب الاحترام لحقوق وحريات الانسان الفردية. الإدعاء بأن حفل لمجموعة من الشباب أنه حفل زفاف، مثير للضحك، فالقضاء المصري لا يعترف بزواج المثليين وكذلك المؤسسة الدينية في مصر. لذلك فإن الحفل لا يمكن أن يكون  حفل زفاف حتى لو ادعى القائمين عليه أنه كذلك، فهو يفتقد للمقومات الأساسية التي تعرف حفل الزفاف. تبادل خاتمي الذهب أو الألماس والرقص على أنغام الموسيقى لا يحول الحفل إلى زفاف، والتزام فردين في علاقة طويلة الأمد لا تعترف بشرعيتها إن لم يكن هنالك اعتراف رسمي من الدولة أو من مؤسسة دينية بها في مصر.

يشبه هذا المشهد الإعلامي المصري نفس المشهد الإعلامي الأردني في الأونة الأخيرة حين أبدع في اطلاق تسميات مختلفة على حفلات خاصة يقوم بها الشباب الأردني. فالحفلات التنكرية ذات التيم المختلفة أصبحت مهرجانات كبيرة تتعارض مع عادات وأخلاق المجتمع في نظر الصحفي صاحب الأخلاق الرفيعة والداعية الديني المتشبق للشهرة.

المحزن في القصة المصرية هو هبة المباحث العامة للقبض على هؤلاء الشباب وتحويلهم للطب الشرعي في مشهد مؤلم يغيب فيه احترام الانسان وجسده وخصوصيته. فالفحص الشرجي للتأكد من عدم ممارسة الشاب للجنس الشرجي هو امتهان للكرامة الإنسانية وكذلك مخالف للدستور المصري الذي لا يوجد به مادة تجرم هذا الفعل الجنسي. كذلك فإن الربط المباشر للميول الجنسي بالايلاج الشرجي يدل على جهل في فهم جنسانية الإنسان. فممارسة الرجل للجنس الشرجي كان مع رجل آخر أو إمرأة، حتى لو كان هو المستقبل في الفعل الجنسي مع امرأة تستخدم أداة جنسية، لا يعني أنه مثلي الجنس. وكذلك كشف الطب الشرعي عدم ظهور علامات لممارستهم الجنس الشرجي لا يعني أنهم ليسوا مثليين. وهنا تكمن المعضلة في التهمة الموجهة إليهم، حيث لا يمكن اتهامهم بأنهم مثليين لأن القانون المصري لا يجرم الميول الجنسي، ولا يمكن اتهامهم بممارسة اللواط لأن القانون كذلك لا يجرم الفعل الجنسي. القانون يجرم خدش الحياء العام، وهو نفس القانون المطاطي المطبق في الأردن والخاضع لمعايير الحياء الخاص لضابط المباحث العامة. هذا القانون جاهز لتجريم كل من لا يمتثل للصورة النمطية لما يراه المجتمع الذكوري مناسبا لشكل وحركة كل من الرجل والمرأة في المجتمع.

الحرية والعدالة الاجتماعية التي طالبت بها الثورة المصرية لا يمكن التقدم بها من دون نمو الوعي الشعبي ليعترف بأن الحرية تعني حرية الجميع والعدالة الاجتماعية تعني مساواة في حقوق كافة أفراد المجتمع بالتعبير عن أنفسهم سواء كان ذلك في اللفظ أو الكتابة أو الجسد. لربما تكون الثورة أخطأت في توجهها السياسي، فحاجتنا اليوم أقوى إلى ثورة إجتماعية تزيح الفرعون القابع في عقولنا وتعيد تشكلينا تحت مبادىء حقوق الإنسان العالمية.

Interviewing Tima

The Arab Observer interviews Tima Shomali


Interviewing Tima

Interviewing Tima


Tima Shomali: I believe now is the time for Jordanian TV to rise.

Many young talents have emerged in the TV and Film production industry in the past few years but no one were as successful and productive as Tima Shomali. In less than five years, she starred in three popular TV shows, produced two of them, started her own production house, and working on a new production that aims to make Jordanian drama sell in the region.

With more than 285K fan on her Facebook page, 86K follower on Instagram, 69K follower on Twitter, and millions of accumulated views on her youtube’s Fe-male show, Tima is certainly a national phenomena.

While visiting Dubai on a business trip, I had the chance to chat with her, asked her about her beginnings, challenges of Jordanian dram and her future plans. Read the full interview below:

Tima Al Shomali

Tima Shomali

Fadi: You are the most successful young actress in Jordan with an impressive track record of quality TV productions starting from Bath Bayakha to Fe-male (two seasons) and Zain. All of that happened in a short period of time and at a time where many young talents of your generation are fighting hard to find an opportunity in an industry that is still in its infancy.



I remember first time I saw you at the Royal Film Commission in 2009, you were merely starting. Back then you were working on developing a short film script. Few months later you attended the 3-weeks comprehensive film making workshop and were happy to stand behind the camera taking the director role. A year later you applied to RISCA and were among the first batch of film makers graduates. Then we saw you on TV in the successful first season of Bath Bayakha.

Tell us more, how did that? How did you reach this far?

I do not consider myself an actress as much as a storyteller

Tima: First of all thank you, I do not consider myself an actress as much as a storyteller, whether it was by writing, acting or producing stories that i would like to tell.

I have the passion for story telling since i was a kid, and how I reached this far is by hard work and God’s well.

Fadi: I feel sad that RISCA couldn’t survive for a longer time. I heard the news last year from Fadi Haddad (Director of When Monaliza smiled) and Nadia Olewat (Producer of the same film), two RISCA graduates who moved to teach at the American University in Dubai. How do you rate your experience at the school? how do you feel about the fact that it is closed now? Do you think there is a market for such caliber of film making graduates in Jordan?

Tima: Its really sad that RSICA had to shut down, but schools like this have lots of costs and is very expensive to operate, and if

Tima Al Shomali

Tima Shomali

there are no students that are able to pay the high fees how do we expect it to survive? and as you know i don’t think we have the mentality yet in our culture for the majority to pay high fees for what most consider a risky career specially in Jordan, its sad but its true!

I have graduated from RSICA with MFA degree in producing/writing and I am a RSICA baby. RSICA is one of the main reasons of what I am now to be honest, I owe it a lot and it was the best time of my life.

Fadi: One of my favorite episodes on Bath Bayakha 2, it is also one of the most popular episodes on youtube with more than 400K views, is “Al Hakika Al Murra” (the ugly truth). Like Aroos Amman, it hit a sensitive nerve of young Jordanian women obsessed in marriage. Do you remember the reactions to that episode?

Tima: I joined Bath baykha team as a writer and lead female actress for 2011 season. It was the first thing I did after graduating from RSICA and it was a great experience.

“The ugly truth” sketch was very popular I think because it was very real and people related to it. Its like the things we all know its a fact but we never talk about it.

Fadi: Bath Bayakha started as an online show, right?

Tima: Bath bayakha started online and then it became an online and TV show, it was aired on OSN and Roya TV.

Fadi: You also started Fe-male as an online show before taking it to the screen and showing it on Ro’ya. How did the online sphere helped you? and what opportunities are their online for young talents?

Tima Al Shomali

Tima Shomali

Tima: I really think that what actually helped my career is the online platform, because it has no rules, you create your own rules, and anyone – I mean it – anyone can do something and show it online now. It gave a chance to all talented people to showcase themselves. It is easy to put it online but that doesn’t mean its easy to succeed. Its actually very hard, first of all because the online generation are really picky, and they choose what they see its not forced on them like TV, second of all there is a lot of competition out there, but for me the secret for any thing to succeed online is not the quality, not the star, its the unique content, thats the secret. Work on your content and then everything else will come by default. If you succeeded to have a a good content you’ll attract people, and step by step you’ll be able to work on the quality.. and other stuff, and thats how it happened for me in Fe-male show, its started a one woman show online, and then it developed to have a full crew not leads than 25 people working on it, other than the actors, and we got sponsors who invested in the show, and then it developed to be on TV. its a ladder, you climb it along the way as long as you have the right base, which is good content.

Tima Shomali: for me the secret for any thing to succeed online is not the quality, not the star, its the unique content, thats the secret

Fadi: 



In Fe-male you are a writer, a producer and an actress, how did you manage to take on all of these roles and come up with such quality production? Was the show your idea?

Tima Al Shomali

Tima Shomali

Tima: Fe-male show to me is my starting point, before that i was not 100% sure I can continue in the field and not have a side job. I didn’t know even if it can be an actual career, because its really risky. But after Fe-male show I realized this is what I want to do and fight for for the rest of my life – film and TV productions.

after Fe-male show I realized this is what I want to do and fight for for the rest of my life



Fadi: I loved the modern reflection of Jordanian young women in the show, it is the first time that we saw such true manifestation of young couples in West Amman. In the past, Jordanian drama focused on Bedouin or small towns outside the capital. It was a fresh experience to watch something that is closer to our lives on screen. Do you think that’s one of the reasons behind the success of the show?

Tima: Fe-male show was an instant hit. I didn’t expect that to be honest, but I think it got popular because it is natural, real, close to people, and you start to feel that the characters are your friends because we actually talk to the audience. It was the characters stress release moments when they’re in the studio and able to say what they actually feel to their audience, and because the subject, which is the couple relationship is attractive and everyone goes through these things! or know someone who does.

Fadi: Fe-male was very balanced in criticising both genders. Tima represented the rebellious young woman and Raja’e was the lazy young man. They both stepped up to their responsibilities as a newly wed couple in the second season. We loved their quarrels and arguments. Is there a 3rd season planned?

Tima: When Fe-male show was created, it had no plan to continue for many seasons, so its hard to force seasons on it just because it was a hit!

I do believe in the saying “quit while you’re on top”, maybe in the future there will be a spin-off or something, but at the moment there is nothing planned.

Fadi: You started your own TV production House “Filmizion”. It was behind the production of Fe-male show. You have also produced Zain (not through Filmizion though). Tell me more about your production experience. What are the challenges you faced in the Jordanian market? You told me before that it is still hard to sell Jordanian drama in the region and that you are on a mission to change that. What’s your plan?

Tima: My theory, Jordanian drama sells in jordan but doesn’t sell to the whole arab world (except the Bedouin series of course). The only drama that succeeded to cross barriers to the whole arab world were the Egyptian and Syrian drama, so that makes it hard to sell a pure Jordanian show out of the blue – at least not with full Jordanian cast to the arab world, specially that Jordanian culture and accent are not very familiar to arab audience just yet.

I believe now is the time for jordanian TV to rise

We need to make jordanian drama (modern one) known for arabs in a clever way, which I think could be in having multi-arab nationalities stars in a Jordanian production, and then, i believe, step by step, we can slowly have an independent Jordanian drama that sells to the arab world

Trying to finance a project is really hard, for Jordan, because we are still young as an industry (not as individuals), but i think the past two years Jordan started to boom, and I believe now is the time for jordanian TV to rise.

Fadi: What’s your upcoming project?

Tima: Actually now i am dedicating my full time and effort for a new project “كباتن” (Capaten), a Jordanian production yet an arab series. Its the production of my company Filmizion in partnership with Bayt alshawareb productions, and i have lots of passion for this project and hopefully you’ll hear the news about it soon!

Capaten a new Jordanian Comedy

Capaten a new Jordanian Comedy

Fadi: Can you tell us more about Capaten?

Tima: I can’t at the moment share information about the show, but hopefully soon i can share more info.


Fadi: We love you and proud to have such a young Jordanian talent. We look forward to watch “Capaten” on screen in the near future.

Fadi Zaghmout and Tima Al Shomali

Fadi Zaghmout and Tima Shomali

Lama Zakharia with Jana Zeineddine

The Arab Observer interviews Lama Zakharia


Lama Zakharia

Lama Zakharia

In may she celebrated me on her radio show “Celebrity of the week” on BeatFM, and today I am celebrating her on my blog. At the time, she told me that she is preparing a musical comedy TV show with Jana Zeineddin to be aired in Ramadan on Ro’ya. Being already a fan of her after seeing her performing with Dozan Awtar last Christmas, I was looking forward for the show. Though I have to admit that I didn’t expect Fa Sol Ya to be of this quality, it was a nice surprise to see such brilliant new genre hitting the local screen. An entertaining quality musical production that captured our hearts in Ramadan. I was surprised to see myself rewinding and watching the episodes over and over again because of its lovely music.

This is the first time I use this platform to interview other people. I believe that we have so much talents in Jordan and little media coverage. Lama Zakharia (@lamaonbeat) is a brilliant young star. Watch out for the name which I predict to become a very important regional star in few years down the road. I asked her about her talent, Fa Sol Ya, her stand on sexual harassment and women rights, her views about women in the production industry in Jordan and more.

Read the full interview below:

Fadi: You are an actress, singer and radio show hostess. There is so much going on in your life and you are multi-talented. Tell us more, who is Lama Zakharia?

Lama: I’m actually undergoing an experimental phase in my life doing all these things mentioned above. Like any 24 year-old, I’m just trying to discover where I stand and really understand what my ideals are. I am also fortunate to have a very supportive family who is pushing me towards perusing my passions which will ultimately help me answer “who is Lama Zakharia” for real.

Fadi: Lets start with your latest, Fa Sol Ya. There is much creativity and talent in the show. There is good chemistry among the cast and the music is just brilliant. How would you define Fa Sol Ya? Whose idea was it? and how did you guys develop it into production?

Fa Sol Ya cast

Fa Sol Ya cast

Lama: Atef Malhas (a guitarist and friend) and I were approached for our work in ‘Kash Kash’ by Shashat with interest to develop our concept for TV during Ramadan.  At this point I brought in Jana Zeineddine to act as a creative comedic consultant and felt we would be a good match. After many discussions and meetings with Shashat, Atef and I decided that this was not the favorable direction to take Kash Kash into. Once we had the concept fine tuned, to take social issues and conceptualize them through musical comedy, Fa Sol Ya was born. The idea was to take a pop song, put some Arabic lyrics, (develop a story with 3-dimensional characters) and make it happen on TV. The more Jana and I worked on concepts, the more I realized what a good match we are. I needed comedic guidance, she was there to offer it, she needed more Jordanian cultural insight, I was there for that, and most of all, we had the same exact type of humor. She became basically, my creative soul sister.

 

Fadi: What are the reactions for the show so far?

Lama: Extreme I can say. People either love it or hate it! I feel the general Jordanian audience is warming up to it but the idea is still foreign and bizarre for many. As for people who have been exposed to musicals before regardless of their background, they seem to understand us more and appreciate what we’re doing.

 Also, in each episode we are introducing a different type of comedy – from dark humor to absurdist to situational – and comedy is culturally specific. People will react to it with apprehension initially if it’s not familiar to them, and that is something that we have been seeing. However, part of our show’s goal was to expose Jordanian audiences to the many different types of comedy, and music was a great vehicle with which to do that.

 

Fadi: How do you feel about the reactions?

Fa Sol Ya

Fa Sol Ya

Lama: I have to admit, being my first experience, I was hurt, shocked, and hopeless when I saw all the negative comments on Youtube. But later on when I started listening to the positive ones. I realized, as Jana would say, extreme reactions are better than no reaction. It means that our performance has affected someone at some level. 

Also, as you mentioned, many of our episodes confront social issues head on, and for some audiences, that can be uncomfortable and cause extreme reactions as well. Many of the negative comments reflect a lack of understanding of the episode’s intention, and that is to be expected.

 

Fadi: You are right, extreme reactions are better than no reaction. Is there any specific reaction that you remember and like to share with us? a positive or negative one?

Fa Sol Ya is a new concept that's bound to receive mixed responses.

Fa Sol Ya is a new concept that’s bound to receive mixed responses

Lama: There was one reaction directed towards the 2atayef song where people claimed we should not have thrown food on the floor, and especially not during Ramadan. I have to say we tried our best to be culturally sensitive, but some people still felt personally insulted rather than entertained.

We always tried our best to keep the balance between taking risks to reach the level of comedy we felt was right and downplaying lyrics or plots to avoid certain discomfort. It’s not a question of not taking risks with the issues we address or the way they are presented and performed, but rather maintaining a level of cultural sensitivity. Jana and I have many ideas that we would still love to present at a future date and will hopefully be able to balance between challenging cultural norms and drawing awareness to issues while maintaining a high level of comedy. At  the end of the day, Fa Sol Ya is a new concept that’s bound to receive mixed responses. The good thing is I learned a lot about my society and how I can work on my delivery for the future.

 

Fadi: I have been really enjoying the show mostly for the music, and your voice of course. Who picked the music?

Lama: Thank you Fadi so much. You’re so supportive!. Some songs came from personal inspirations and some came from Jana. We followed our impulses mainly when selecting what songs to use. Each episode has a different story and we really were on the same page with our vision which made the creative and song selection process smooth. Also working with a genius arranger like Nareg Abajian, and a highly talented sound producer Qusai Diqer (who were both in Syria) was challenging but so rewarding. We also had the support and the amazing spirit of Saeed Bazouqa from Loriana studios when we were recording the vocals which facilitated the process.

 

Fadi: I loved most of the episodes I watched. You have tackled different issues such as corruption, tawjihi, media, parliament among others. My personal favorite is “Ramadan Song – Katayef”. It is a dark comedy that touched me strongly and made me feel bad about what mothers go through on a daily basis (Alla ye3eenhom). I like the feminist edge in it. 

Which is your favorite episode? Why?

Lama: Wow! I’m always happy when someone gets what we mean! That’s exactly what we meant by the 2atayef song and Jana portrayed that extreme emotion with perfection. My personal favorite is actually Darbet 6arab. I am actually proud that we managed to produce a classical medley of Arab pop songs. I’m also in love with how it was shot even though, believe it or not, it was all last minute. I just love how this one was delivered.


Fadi: The first time I have seen you acting what on stage at Christmas time with Dozan Awtar. I instantly fall in love with the grandma character you played. The play itself was a nice breeze and captured Christmas spirit very well. I can see some of Dozan’s cast playing on your side in Fa Sol Ya, you guys make a brilliant group. Tell us more about Dozan Wa Awtar. How did you get involved with them? any future plans for the group that you’d like to share with us?

Lama: Dozan Wa Awtar is the backbone behind this project in many ways. Firstly, I met the musical mastermind Nareg Abajian through Dozan. I’ve also met my creative sister Jana through Dozan as the director of Project Christmas which you’ve mentioned above. Most importantly, this establishment is such a unique loving and supporting family, they just made the process of performing and recording more professional, smoother, and even more enjoyable. As for future plans, there will always be future plans I am part of Dozan after all.

 

Fadi: I really love your voice. Would you ever consider developing your own pop music album? I’d certainly be the first one to buy it.

Lama: Thank you! Actually at this stage, not really sure I can go down this road. I believe any person who wants to be a singer, let alone a composer or a lyric writer, should work a lot on themselves before earning that title. Once I’m satisfied with what I’m doing and can plaster a label on my forehead I’ll go ahead with it and present the first copy to you Fadi J

Fadi: That’s a day I look forward to.

 

Fadi: Have you seen the horrible video of the gang sexual harassment in Irbid? You have once addressed the issue with music and delivered a strong message in your show Kashkhash. How was the reactions to that? What’s Kashkhash? and how do you think we could fight such phenomena?

Lama: I think this issue is one that angers me the most in life. I will continue writing music about this and I even have something in mind to tackle this Irbid issue particularly. I think exposure is the first step towards reaching a better place than we’re in. Making people realize “THIS IS WRONG” is what we need to do first. If you look at the comments on the video, many commenters think the girls deserve this treatment. Let’s first make it visible to people how wrong it is through music, awareness campaigns, videos, verbal expression and then we can move forward to more targeted measures. This is a deeply ingrained cultural problem. More so than a sexual one. That’s my opinion.

 

Fadi: On may, I was honored to be hosted in your show “Celebrity of the Week” on Beat FM. How is the show going? Who was your favorite celebrity to host?

Lama: I loved that interview! Especially that I’m a huge fan of yours (funny you’re interviewing me now) “wa7de b wa7de”! lol. The show is good I keep learning every day and that is my favorite feature as I get to meet amazing people like you. My favorite was Tim Sebastian the interviewer of the year several times in Britain. He was a tough cookie. Loved interviewing him. Learned a lot from that.

 

Fadi: There are so much young talents in Jordan. The Royal Film Commission trained many in Film and TV production but we are yet to see the industry mature. At the front of the industry we see some women leading the way such as Nadine Toukan, Rula Nasser, Tima Al Shomali, Rania Kurdi, Saba Mubarak and Jana Zeineddine. What do you think of the creative industry as a good platform to change cultural norms and push women rights? Do you think that you (women) have done enough on that front?

I love and respect any woman who merely expresses herself in a public way

I love and respect any woman who merely expresses herself in a public way

Lama: I think the industry still needs more female presence. I love and respect any woman who merely expresses herself in a public way. That is enough for me. I just think more women should do it and with more intensity. I think the creative industry serves as a platform for “exposure” which is the first step to changing cultural norms. But I don’t think it’s enough on its own. You have to add all the other ingredients to form a noticeable change.

 

Fadi: Have you watched Fe-male past Ramadan? What do you think?

Lama: Yes some episodes! I am a fan of Tima just because she’s never afraid of being goofy on TV. She really opened up that space for a lot of women. She’s quite bold and I love it.

I am a fan of Tima just because she’s never afraid of being goofy on TV

I am a fan of Tima just because she’s never afraid of being goofy on TV

 

Fadi: and Rania Show?

Lama: That was the talk of the town when it was on which is GREAT. I want to see more female-led comedy and Rania is so talented in that way. She was bold, challenged some boundaries, and led to some talk which is what we need for this industry to start growing.

 

Fadi: One last question, what are your future plans? 

Lama: I am now considering studying music professionally as a basic plan to be able to be more technically adept and more capable vocally. When and where this will happen I can’t answer honestly because I decided on that just three days ago. This is how spontaneous my life has been. I just hope I’ll still have the resilience to offer something to my community in the long run. I’ve learned through my first experience that this industry is the hardest to work in Jordan. Hopefully it will be easier for people like Jana and I to keep going the way we are down a much smoother road.