Arab viewers tune into TV series
 updatetime:2023-01-16 11:05:00   Views:0 Source:China Daily


An Arabic poster promoting the hit Chinese TV series Minning Town. [Photo provided to China Daily]

High-quality dubbing and translation give Middle East audience intriguing glimpse into poverty alleviation, Deng Zhangyu reports.

When Ma Ning introduced Minning Town — a hit Chinese series telling the story of poverty alleviation — to Arab television stations last year, they showed, initially, little interest.

The series is now airing in many Arab nations like Egypt and Sudan, gaining a rising popularity after being well dubbed and translated. It also got an Arabic title which means "a road to happiness" in English.

"The dubbing helps a lot and enables it to be better accepted by Arab audiences," says Ma, manager of Wisdom House International Culture Communication Group that is in charge of the dubbing and distribution of Minning Town in the Arab world.

Minning Town vividly narrates the shifting nature of life and the fortunes of people who once lived in a poor mountainous area in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui autonomous region, where sandstorms, water shortages and poor transportation seemed to trap them in the 1990s. After relocation to a more inhabitable village near the Yellow River, people experienced great changes and embraced a better life in the Gobi Desert.

Characters in the Chinese drama employ the dialects used in Ningxia rather than standard Mandarin, which is regarded as one of its attractions to Chinese audiences. The Arabic version chose Syrian Arabic, a dialect widely spoken in the Gulf, to dub the series.

Ma says they did a lot of research and surveys before finally choosing to dub it in Syrian Arabic to "close the distance with Arab audiences".


A host introduces Minning Town to local viewers on a program for an Egyptian TV station. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The translation and dubbing took nearly five months and involved more than 35 Arab voice actors, says Ma Xuejun, head of the translation team.

The series depicts a range of characters and the dubbing team has practitioners of all ages, from children to the elderly. At least three voice actors were asked to do the recording for each major character. The one who matched the tone of the character's voice best was the one to be finally selected.

A graduate of the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Syria, Samer Safaf got the role of the main protagonist Ma Defu, a village official who is in charge of the relocation of the impoverished village where he was born. The official's job of persuading people to move to a new place and teaching them useful skills to make money was misunderstood at first.

The 32-year-old Arab says that, the more he dubbed, the more he understood how hard and valuable Ma Defu's job is.

"My anger was real when I became the protagonist and got refused by the villagers," says Safaf.

He fell in love with the role, and the protagonist's spirit of never giving up also inspired him. Safaf says that, with such persistent people like Ma Defu, he understands why China has thrived, growing from a poor country to an economic power.

The original series comprises 23 episodes. Its Arabic version was contracted into 15, devoted to the plot of the villagers' relocation and how they work to shake off poverty.

"Poverty is a problem facing many countries. Some rural areas in Arab nations are hit by sandstorms, lack of water and are trapped in poverty. It's possible that Arab viewers will be touched by the TV series, which demonstrates how the Chinese overcome such difficulties," says Ma Xuejun.

The ability to learn China's secret to success is what Ma Ning stressed when he promoted the drama to Arab TV stations and finally secured their collaboration last year.


An internet influencer on YouTube posts a review video of the Arabic version of Chinese TV series Minning Town. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The series is now gaining popularity in the Arab market. Arab media reports pertaining to the show have increased and discussions of it by internet influencers and among local viewers have also risen. Later it will be aired in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among other Arab countries.

"I think Minning Town is a landmark show for us to be able to introduce Chinese TV series to the Arab world. The time is right," says Ma Ning.

Last December, the National Radio and Television Administration held a meeting in Beijing on "TV Cooperation Between China and Arab States". The meeting announced the launch of a Chinese TV series section at the Dubai-based Middle East Broadcasting Center, which will let audiences in Arab states watch hit Chinese dramas, including Minning Town.

Le Yucheng, deputy head of National Radio and Television Administration, said at the meeting that China is willing to cooperate with Arab states to produce and broadcast more television programs.

The Yinchuan-based Wisdom House International Culture Communication Group, where Ma Ning works, started commercial activities in the Arab nations in 2011. At first, this involved book publication and language education.

In recent years, the company has stepped into the arenas of TV and film. However, it's not easy to get opportunities to work with Arab TV stations directly, according to Ma Ning. The usual way is to take part in film or TV related festivals in Arab nations and Chinese content can be aired for a short period.

"Many Arab people's impression of China is that of the country in the 1990s. Martial arts actors like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are the best known Chinese faces in the film industry," says Ma Ning.


The team from Wisdom House International Culture Communication Group signs a contract with TV stations from Egypt and Sudan to broadcast the Arabic version of the TV series in November. [Photo provided to China Daily]

In terms of TV series, he adds that Arab audiences who watch Chinese content favor costume dramas and documentaries aired via online platforms, according to their surveys. Minning Town is special, as it reaches a wide audience mainly through Arab TV stations.

Ma Ning is confident and excited about the future of exporting Chinese TV series to Arab nations. He says that China's rising economic power and the good relationship between China and Arab states both contribute to a bright future for such cultural exchanges. The further exchange of TV series is a certainty.

According to a report published by the National Radio and Television Administration in November, Arab nations are becoming an emerging and important market for Chinese dramas.

Li Fude, founder of Century UU, a Tianjin-based Chinese content distributor and producer, says that their subscribers from the Arab world has increased in the past two years. Li's company has more than 27 million subscribers and covers 13 languages on YouTube. The number of subscribers from Arab nations has passed 1 million.

On Dec 9, the first China-Arab States Summit was held in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, attended by President Xi Jinping and leaders of 21 Arab nations.

"The recent exchanges between China and Arab nations really excite us," says Ma Ning. "The future cooperation in the TV industry is very bright, and Chinese TV dramas will enjoy rising popularity."

Web Editor:MXJ