You would struggle to find an ordinary Syrian who could name their top five Syrian films. This is not because there is a lack of talent in producing such films, but mainly because of economics. Simply put, there is very little return on investment for large film productions in a region that is notorious for software and video piracy and with very little in the way of intellectual property law. Syrian drama serials, on the other hand, have enjoyed a boost in the last fifteen years and have become popular throughout the Middle East. This has been mainly down to two factors: firstly, the proliferation of satellite television stations and receiving equipment throughout the Arab world, and secondly, a boost in both foreign and domestic investment that helped Syrian producers and directors focus their talents towards television dramas. Piracy might still be an issue, but satellite channels, especially those based in the Gulf states, have been able to buy exclusive rights for various dramas during the peak period of television viewing, particularly the month of Ramadan, and have been able to command considerable fees for advertising and sponsorship.

But despite its popularity, and its economic successes, Syrian drama is still fundamentally flawed. This is because it operates both under a ceiling of government approval and direction, and also under its own limits of self-censorship. Thus we cannot talk about Syrian drama without understanding Syrian politics, because the former has been shaped by the latter almost since its inception and has played a vital role in shaping the perceptions of the Syrian public and their relationship both with their government and the outside world.

The following serials are discussed in the essay:

Bab al Hara, director, Bassam al-Malla, 2006
The Diaspora, director, Nathir Awwad, 2003
al-Burkan, director, Muhammad Aziziya, 1993
Ayyam Shammiyeh, director, Bassam al-Malla, 1992
Nihayat Rajul Shuja‘a, director, Najdat Ismail Anzour, 1993
al-Jawareh, director, Najdat Ismail Anzour, 1994
Ikhwat al Turab, director, Najdat Ismail Anzour, 1996
Ma Malakat Aymanukum, director, Najdat Ismail Anzour, 2010
Ghizlan fi Ghabat al-Thi’ab, director, Rasha Sharbatji, 2006

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