BEIRUT: Drugs, weapons, and human trafficking are not unfamiliar themes when it comes to drama, action films or series. So, in the case of “Al Hayba – El Awda,” what was so different?
Despite the series’ claim of fictional representation, some felt the need to oppose what they believe is a stereotypical reinforcement of a certain group of people.
“Al Hayba” was the top-rated series of Ramadan last year, which encouraged Cedars Art Production (Sabbah Brothers) to conceive a comeback for this year’s holy month, titled “Al Hayba – El Awda.”
This year, however, the series was met with a frown by some.
Criticism over “Al Hayba-El Awda” fell like bullets on the production company and the series’ fans, harshly and unexpectedly.
Although the series places a disclaimer at the beginning of every episode, stating that every detail presented of the location and characters is purely fictional, some viewers still linked it to the Beqaa, or, more specifically, the Baalbek-Hermel district.
The imaginary location within the series where all the charged scenes take place was considered by some as a representation of Baalbek, given its location between Lebanon and Syria. The dialect used by some of the actors also linked the series to the valley.
Those who were critical of the series considered that the famous prequel reinforces a stereotypical representation of the people as tribal drug and weapons dealers.
The criticism of the series did not end there however, even locals had their say.
Ashraf Al Moussawi, a lawyer, maintained that a group of lawyers and activists have raised their voices and filed a lawsuit against “Al Hayba-El Awda;” pointing out also that a throve of lawyers are willing to refer the matter to the judicial authorities to block the series.
In response, Cedars Art Production (Sabbah Brothers) simply asked those offended to read carefully the disclaimer that appears before every episode.
And while the production company saw their response as fitting, fans of the series had their say on the matter as well.
“It’s too late to stop screening the series,” Yara Moussawi, one of the series' many fans and a Baalbek local, told Annahar. “You should have thought of the problems you have with the show before it got screened halfway through. This is not acceptable."
Others also considered that the scenes might be a bit harsh for viewers, but they reflect a corrupt system that does exist and might be sometimes overlooked in other Lebanese series.
“I’m against banning it because, the way I see it, you cannot stop corruption by not talking about it or censoring it,” said Rana Tabbara, another fan of the series. “Al Hayba is a sword with two edges, as it sheds light on important issues.”
Bashar Zaiter, another Baalbek native, and fan, argued against the opposing opinions.
"No one is waiting for a stereotypical image to be created about the district," he said, adding that "we cannot hide the fact that some mistakes are just there and we cannot blame them all on a series."
Others spoke of their frustration in a slightly different and light-hearted manner, with Fatima Al Mahmoud asking Annahar "what's Ramadan without Taim Hassan on screen?”
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