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Iraq Ramadan show ‘revives’ an industry


DeGeneres show extended

BAGHDAD, May 22, (RTRS): On a studio set in Baghdad, a director watches the star of his TV series hold a knife against the neck of a fellow actor, in a dramatic revival of fortunes for Iraq’s entertainment industry.

Filmed in Iraq where the entertainment industry has been battered by conflict, “The Hotel” unfolds in a run-down hostel owned by a novelist who records the lives of his guests as they struggle against violence or become caught up in romance.

Made on a small budget, the series of daily shows has been airing during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when families and friends across the Middle East often gather around televisions after breaking the day’s fast with an evening meal.

The series tackles sensitive issues of prostitution, drug use and human trafficking, topics that drew censure from some lawmakers and members of the public in the religiously conservative country.

As a result, some racier scenes have been cut.


But Ali Jaafar al-Saadi, one of the show’s producers, makes no apology for the subject matter. “Art in my opinion never solves issues, but it sheds light on certain problems in society,” he told Reuters.

Those behind the production see it as part of a slow recovery of Iraq’s film and entertainment industry, which crumbled after the 2003 US-led invasion and in the years of conflict since then.

Hassan Husni, a former actor who directed the show, said working on the series fulfilled a dream. “People were eagerly awaiting the return of Iraqi drama. This opens the door,” he said.

Husni left Iraq in 1996 when international sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s government crushed the economy and made it difficult to earn money acting.

“I kept waiting for stability to return to the country,” he said. Meanwhile, he gained experience abroad in Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia, before coming home five months ago.

Saadi said the revival of television production and other cultural activities showed a semblance of calm was returning to Iraq. “Art can only exist in a place with security, a place that is relatively stable,” he said.

The team has still faced hurdles, often having to work with old equipment or teaching crew members new skills.

Many Iraqi actors, cinematographers and directors who also fled have remained abroad. But Saadi said he was “very optimistic” that the entertainment industry would thrive again.

Many Iraqis were happy to see a local production on their TV screens, after years of watching shows imported from Egypt or other Arab states. But some were shocked by scenes that included one depicting a massage or those showing characters gathering in a nightclub, drinking alcohol or taking drugs.

Members of parliament’s culture committee said the show “contradicts the values and norms of Iraqi society”, which led to some nightclub scenes being edited out of future episodes.

His comments about the show’s themes were echoed by veteran actor and star of the show, Mahmoud Abu al-Abbas.

Ellen DeGeneres is sticking with her daytime talk show.

DeGeneres announced Tuesday that she has signed a new deal to continue hosting “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” through 2022. There had been rumors for some time that DeGeneres was planning to leave the show when her current contract was up in 2020, something she leaned into when making the announcement to her studio audience in a video released Tuesday.

“the beginning I said this show was going to be like a relationship,” DeGeneres said. “We’ve been through the good, the bad, the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ phase. It’s been a lot of fun and 16 years is a pretty good run. Sometimes in a relationship, you need to take a break. But I don’t. You’re stuck with me. I just signed for three more years.”

According to sources, DeGeneres now has a large ownership stake in the show, having been granted more points with every contract.

DeGeneres, Mary Connelly, Ed Glavin, Andy Lassner, Kevin A. Leman II and Derek Westervelt serve as executive producers. Originating from Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is produced by A Very Good Production and WAD Productions, Inc in association with Telepictures, and is distributed by Warner Bros Domestic Television Distribution. The show has already been licensed by the NBC Owned Television Stations (10 stations) and Hearst Television (22 stations) through the 2021-2022 season.


“Ellen is, quite simply, a force of nature,” said Peter Roth, president and chief content officer for Warner Bros Television Group. “Her energy, intelligence, kindness and creativity know no bounds. Whether it’s her instant connection to her guests on her flagship talk show, her warm and funny hosting on ‘Game of Games’, or the infectious enthusiasm she shares in producing everything from ‘Little Big Shots’ to the animated antics of ‘Green Eggs and Ham’, it’s an honor to work alongside her. We’re thrilled to continue this fun and friendly journey with her.”

DeGeneres also currently hosts the NBC series “Ellen’s Game of Games”, which features the comedian and daytime host playing supersized versions of the games she has popularized through her talk show. NBC also announced that she will host three holiday specials titled “Ellen’s Greatest Night of Giveaways” later this year.

The BBC will air a spoof talk-show fronted by an animated Vladimir Putin. The UK pubcaster has ordered two pilot episodes of “Tonight with Vladimir Putin”, a semi-scripted talk show hosted by a CGI representation of the Russian leader.

The first guest will be Alistair Campbell, a former high-ranking political spin doctor in the UK. Other interviewees are plucked from the world of British TV and popular culture. Visual effects specialist Framestore has used performance capture technology to enable the 3D animated Putin character to walk around the set and interact with guests.

The producers said that the animated Putin will be seen trying to get to grips with feminism and diversity. “Everybody’s favourite bear-wrestling global strongman Vladimir Putin has finally achieved his ultimate goal – a chat-show on the BBC,” the BBC said as it announced the show.

UK-Russia relations are strained, notably in the wake of the poisoning of a former Russian military officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter. British officials have named two Russian nationals as suspects in the case, which is now the subject of a BBC drama. The Russian state-owned news channel RT, formerly Russia Today, was found to have breached UK broadcasting rules in the wake of the attack.

Phil McIntyre Television and Framestore are producing “Tonight with Vladimir Putin” for BBC Two. Vladimir Putin is written and performed by Natt Tapley. Rachel Ashdown commissioned the show for the BBC.

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