Prominent Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region indie distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment has formed a partnership with Beirut-based outfit Operation Unicorn (OU) in a move aimed at ramping up its production of Arabic film and TV content.
In a deal finalized and announced during Saudi Arabia’s ongoing Red Sea Film Festival, Front Row has acquired an undisclosed stake in OU, a young company that has made a name for itself for its prizewinning work in creating advertising spots. OU has been transitioning into the film and TV space, as has Front Row, so there is good synergy.
OU’s team includes Nathalie Masri, who held a senior art director position at global communications group Havas before launching her own agency and leading its creative department. Besides several successful and award-winning ad campaigns, she is the co-creator and actor in the popular online satire show “Coffee Break.”
Front Row’s production arm Yalla Yalla and OU are now developing several projects including a comedy series titled “From the Bathroom”; a couples’ dramedy show spanning various Arab countries called “Heads or Tails” and a docu-series that will be unveiled next year. They have also teamed on the previously announced Arabic remake of French megahit “Intouchables,” which now has a planned start of shooting date set for 2022.
Meanwhile the long-gestating Arabic adaptation of hit Italian concept movie “Perfect Strangers,” produced by Front Row in tandem with Egypt’s Film Clinic, featuring a high-caliber ensemble cast including Lebanon’s Nadine Labaki, is due for an early 2022 release.
“We’re looking to pave the way for a dynamic new phase of regional content,” said Front Row CEO Gianluca Chakra, in a statement. “For decades the [Arab] industry has been stagnant in the hands of a tight circle of creators working under a stringent set of rules and red-lines,” he added.
“The key to successful content is creative, honest storytelling,” said Masri. “We want to inject meaningful, insightful stories into local content, stories that will resonate for an audience that feels mostly shut-out or detached from current content.”
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