Moroccan TV drama reaches broader Arab audiences

Friday 26/06/2020
– Poster of Moroccan series “Shehadet Melad” (Birth Certificate). a 60-episode TV series broadcast on the MBC5 channel. (MBC5 official page)

While Morocco is making impressive strides in the Arab and European cinema scene, the country’s drama industry is still relatively unknown to the majority of Arab viewers.

However, Moroccan series “Shehadet Melad” (”Birth Certificate”) is hoping to change that and propel the industry to the next level.

This 60-episode TV series revolves around a wealthy family that discovers, after the death of its patriarch that its matriarch had convinced the hospital to switch the rightful heir of the family (a girl) with a baby boy. This discovery kickstarts a search for the biological daughter.

The series is full of dramatic events and action scenes, combining several genres in a manner full of surprises, suspense and excitement.

The varied and interconnected storylines stem from the event that happened decades before the main plot officially begins. The crime of switching two newborns resulted in social and moral consequences, including mixing lineages and the breakup of families.

The plot also tackles dark themes such as corruption, retaliation and fraud.

Actor and film director Farid Rakraki
Actor and film director Farid Rakraki

Actor and film director Farid Rakraki landed a major role in the series. He said that Moroccan drama has proven itself at home, but that it still needs to be better promoted to the vast Arab audience. He stressed that artists themselves need to be introduced to the Arab world, instead of keeping their work limited to their country of origin.

He said Moroccan cinema has been fortunate to be well represented in Arab and international festivals, but noted that Moroccan series have not always been able to access these opportunities. The disparity has left many people working in the industry frustrated that they have access to diverse Arab dramas – whether from Egypt, Syria, the Gulf or Algeria — while the rest of the Arab world is not exposed to Moroccan drama.

Rakraki hopes that “Shehadet Melad,” which is broadcast on the MBC5 channel, will breathe new life into the industry.

Like any work, “Shehadet Melad” has received its share of negative feedback from critics.

However, artist Souad Khayi said this drama is unique in that it is directed specifically for a broad Arab audience, with which Morocco shares a common culture and values.

She also noted that the series was directed with advanced cinematic techniques. She said it is too early to fully critique the unfinished story.

Moroccan artist Souad Khayi
Moroccan artist Souad Khayi

Khayi said that Morocco’s unique dialect is one barrier to it reaching a broader Arab audience, but added that the target audience will gradually get used to the dialect as it progresses through multiple programmes.

Moroccans, for instance, gradually grew accustomed to Gulf Arabic dialects as their television programmes became popular.

As for Moroccan drama in general, especially in light of the emergence of new channels and competitive outlets, Khayi says the industry “is witnessing a great turn in its history, in terms of techniques, production, and on the level of the stories it presents. We are now reading about important issues written in a professional manner by younger creative writers. This year saw Moroccan channels full with several series that gained a major following. Therefore, it is safe to consider MBC5 as an alternative platform which adds value to our channels. It will open the door to a competition to reach the Moroccan audience in the first place then the Arab world. What ultimately interests us as actors is the Moroccan production, whether it is presented on our local channels or its competitors.”