Netflix taps ‘Hollywood of the Middle East’ to produce new series

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‘Paranormal’ is based on the popular series of books by Egyptian novelist Ahmed Khaled Tawfik.

Netflix Inc will debut its first Egyptian television series, Paranormal, on Thursday, marking a significant step in the streaming service’s Middle Eastern strategy.

The series is based on Egyptian novelist Ahmed Khaled Tawfik’s books about a doctor whose lifelong scientific convictions are suddenly called into question. His critically-acclaimed novels in Arabic have sold more than 15 million copies.

“Our plan is: invest in Arab creators, in Arab production, in Arab content. We have announced four projects, plus Paranormal,” said Ahmed Sharkawi, director of Arabic and African original series at Netflix.

Paranormal centres around Refaat Ismail, a cynical doctor with a dark wit whose convictions about the natural world are put to the test when he begins to experience paranormal activity.

“This is one of my life’s projects. I loved [the novels] since I was a kid … We’ve been trying to get [a series] out since 2006, so finally, it has been shown to the audience,” said Amr Salama, who is a co-producer on the show along with Mohamed Hefzy.

Egypt was historically dubbed the “Hollywood of the Middle East” and produces the most Arabic films and television series, which are then widely viewed across the region.

“We are on a global platform … so this is an opportunity that is different from any other opportunity we’ve worked on. We can now have fans from other regions, other countries, who speak other languages,” said Ahmed Amin, who plays the show’s protagonist.

Netflix has said it expects to finish shooting more than 150 productions by the end of the year and that it would release more original programming in each quarter of 2021 compared with 2020.