A new web series has joined the Arabic web series family! After Lebanon’s award-winning Shankaboot, Jordan’s Bath Bayakha, and Syria’s revolutionary Top Goon, here comes Palestine’s very own web series. From Jerusalem, we give you Noss Balad.
Noss Balad, which literally means “Half a Country” in Arabic, is Palestine’s first series specifically shot for the web. Set in Jerusalem, it follows the absurd daily lives of a Palestinian family: four children, their fashion designer single mother, and their grandfather.
“We don’t like the idea of poor Palestinians,” Marianna Bianchetti, Noss Balad's Italian creator and first-time producer, told Euromed Audiovisual. In the media, the outside world sees people throwing stones, but daily life is very different: “The big bulk of their lives is studying, fighting with the family, falling in love... We want to bring out the normality of this place.”
Bianchetti, an Italian who has been working in Palestine since 2008 organising theatre and multimedia workshops for Palestinian youth and recently helping to set up Jerusalem’s first office sharing space for artists, Al Ma’mal LAB, first had the idea for the online series. But, she says, she couldn’t have done it without Noss Balad’s young team of Palestinian filmmakers and actors.
One of these young Palestinians is Ahmad Bakri, 24, who is co-director of the series.
A theatre and audiovisual summer school in 2008, organised by the Italian Cooperation that Bianchetti was working for, changed his life, he told Euromed Audiovisual. He stopped studying architecture and engineering, and was awarded a scholarship to study digital filmmaking at the SAE Institute in Jordan. Today, he has put his latest documentary on hold (The Neighbourhood’s Old Men, for which he took part in the Greek StoryDoc training programme) to co-direct Noss Balad with Italian filmmakerPietro Bellorini.
He knows the Jordanians behind the successful web series Bath Bayakha, and reckons that Palestinians can do it too -- especially with so much more material coming out of Palestine: “We are the ones creating the stories!” he says.
Noss Balad’s screenplay is, says Bianchetti, about the absurdity of daily life in Jerusalem. It is loosely based on the biographical novel by a female architect living in Ramallah, Sharon and My Mother-in-Law by Suad Amiri, and written by Palestinian screenwriter and comedian Husam Abu Esheh, who plays the grandfather in the series and who was also a trainer at the Italian-run theatre and multimedia workshops.
The rest of the team have also pitched in with ideas from their daily lives, and they will develop the dialogue for the next nine episodes over the coming months.
Meanwhile, Bianchetti continues to look for funding for the project. She has approached Palestinian and Jordanian television producers, but says that a web series is still something very new for an older generation of Palestinian producers. But she hopes that prominent Palestinian businessmen will be interested in supporting a project to show the rest of the world, Arabs, and even Palestinians not allowed to enter Jerusalem, a better, fairer portrait of the city than in the news. All ten episodes, around 12 minutes long, will feature subtitles in English.
Until then, Noss Balad is cleverly using free online resources: a Wordpress blog as a website, Facebook and Twitter accounts to promote the series, and a YouTube channel to air its episodes. And crowd-funding. At the end of the week, after a second screening of the first episode in Jerusalem, the team will launch a crowd-funding campaign on Indie Gogo.
“It’s a nice thing that someone in Europe and the US can support us, become a producer in some way,” said Bianchetti.
Noos Balad - trailer: