Friday, August 13, 2010

Jerusalem Tells Its Story. I Am Jerusalem -- Ana al-Quds

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan visits us every year and brings with it many things including a plethora of Arabic drama works that crowd the sky of Arabic satellite television channels. The month is really a marathon of so many Arabic drama series that are absolutely impossible for anyone to watch in their entirety.  Several works stand out at the end of Ramadan each year as ones that have attracted the most viewers and that have left the biggest impact on Arab audiences. An example from last year would be the Syrian television series Bab al-Hara which was watched by tens of millions of people. It remains to be seen which series will stand out at the end of Ramadan this year.

Syrian actors Karis Bashar (L) and Abed Fahd (R) in Ana al-Quds

One of the the noteworthy series this year is the joint Syrian-Egyptian drama production Ana al-Quds (I Am Jerusalem), which took al-Khatib brothers (film director and co-scenarist Basel al-Khatib and his brother co-scenarist Talid al-Khatib) three years to prepare. The drama work chronicles the story of the city of Jerusalem in the 50 years between 1917 (when Jerusalem was captured by the British Army in the process of fulfilling the infamous Balfour Declaration) and 1967 (the year in which East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War).

Egyptian actor Farouk al-Fichawi in Ana al-Quds

The series tells the story of the Jerusalemites who lived in the city and what happened to them in those stormy 50 years of the city's history. In an interview with al-Jazeera Arabic television channel in April of 2010, co-scenarist Talid al-Khatib pointed out the fact that not many Arabs today seem to know details of the Palestinian story:
"It is regrettable that despite the abundance of publications, literature, photographs and songs about Palestine, one finds that the knowledge of the Arab citizen regarding the Palestinian cause almost resembles perhaps that of the citizen of Japan"
The importance of the work stems also from the fact that one easily finds parallels between the historical events that took place in those crucial 50 years and what continues to go on today on the ground in occupied East Jerusalem. This is what director Basel al-Khatib was alluding to when he said:
"We would like in this series to shine the light on the city and to show how Palestine and Jerusalem were lost, especially in light of what continues to go on today in Jerusalem, including the Judaization of the city and the expulsion [by the Israeli authorities] of its Palestinian inhabitants; it's as if the scenario has been repeating itself now for many years"
The title of the work "I Am Jerusalem" was chosen to represent the idea that the city is telling its story by itself through the characters in the series. Filming was done in Syria in areas that have a climate similar to that of Jerusalem [Ar] including the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Hama and Safita and the Syrian village of Mashta al-Helou. The cast includes prominent actors from Syria (including Abed Fahd and Karis Bashar) and Egypt (including Farouk al-Fichawi).

Promo of Ana al-Quds [Video Credit: Fadi Qadi]

You can watch the 30-episode series during Ramadan on one of several Arabic television channels including [Ar] the Syrian Satellite Channel [Ar], Algerian TV, al-Manar TV and Melody Drama. 

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