Netflix's first Jordan-based Arabic series drops today
Netflix's first Arabic language original, Jinn, follows the lives of a group of high schoolers who encounter supernatural forces after a school trip to Petra. It's the first of many Jordan-based Netflix originals and will hit your screens on June 13.
The show can best be described as a modern take on a ghost story, with plenty of teenage angst set amid the Jordan of the 21st century. The school is hit with a series of unfortunate incidents after a student invites a Jinn to wreak havoc and take revenge on his bullies.
Featuring a cast of up-and-coming talent from the region, Jinn will see Salma Malhas star as Mira, a rebellious teen still devastated after the loss of her mother who meets Keras, played by Hamzeh Okab, the Jinn who is tasked with guarding vigilante Jinns. Sultan Alkhail as Yassin, who struggles with a world that seems stacked against him and we follow his coming of age story sparked by his supernatural friendship with Vera, played by Aysha Shahaltough who is on hunt for vengeance at any cost. Mira is tasked with rescuing Yassin from the ruthless Vera before it’s too late.
Esquire Middle East caught up with the cast of teenage actors in Amman who up until now are relatively unknown. Most of them were regular high school students a year ago and now are set to be the new face of the Middle East and will be broadcast to the screens of people in over a 190 countries. For the 17 to 18-year-old cast, it's pretty unbelievable.
"I got the call basically a year ago and they told me not to tell anyone that I'd been cast," says Sultan Alkhail who plays one of the four main characters, Yassin, in the show.
"But of course I told everyone," he laughingly says on the sidelines of Netflix's big press junket in Amman in a makeshift studio at the Fairmont.
The Middle East is still largely stereotyped by the West. But this show hopes to change all that. The five episodes in season one, that range from anywhere between 48 to 24 minutes, is a realistic portrayal of teenage life in Amman.
The show has scenes of the characters going through school politics, break-ups, hook-ups, clandestine meetings, underage drinking and smoking and shows that life in Amman may not be all that different from life anywhere else in the world.
"I wouldn't say it's an authentic representation of all teenage life in Jordan because we have lots of different people, but I would say that it's an accurate representation of kids in one part of society for sure," says says Salma Malhas, who plays Mira.
Lebanese director Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya said in a statement: “this is a great opportunity to portray Arab youth in a very unique way. The level of authenticity Netflix is trying to achieve with this show is definitely what attracted me the most to be part of this project.”
But some members of the principal cast almost didn't make the final cut.
Hamzeh Okab, who plays Keras, a bedouin boy possessed by a Jinn, didn't make it through the first round of auditions and was told he could be an extra.
"The first time I auditioned for a different part and I didn't get it. I was so bummed out but now I'm glad I didn't get it because I'm not like the character at all," Okab says.
"I basically hounded the casting agents and the directors to give me a chance," he says.
Netflix have shown a keen interest in investing in more Middle East focused content; Jinn, based in Jordan, premieres on June 13 and they recently announced AlRawabi School for Girls, a high school drama with an all-female Arab cast and crew which is also set in Jordan. The streaming service recently announced a new Egyptian original series, Paranormal as well.
It will be interesting to see how audiences in the Middle East will react to this new show and depending on the reaction, it will set the stage for more Middle East based Netflix shows to be signed on.
Jinn is now available in 26 languages, in more than 190 countries and to 148 million subscribers around the world.