Mohammed Saeed Harib Joins Dubai Studio City’s Reel Talks


Mohammad Saeed Harib, creator of the region’s first 3D animated series FREEJ, has become the first person to have an Arabic-language cartoon translated into Japanese, underscoring the international demand for homegrown UAE content.


Speaking on Dubai Studio City’s Reel Talks session, an Instagram Live series featuring leading film and television figures, run in collaboration with in5 Media and ON.DXB, in partnership with the National Media Council, Harib shared a host of exciting updates.


Having started his career in Dubai Media City more than 15 years ago, the UAE-born writer and producer burst onto the scene in 2006 with FREEJ, which portrays four Emirati women living in modern-day Dubai. He has since gone on to create Siraj, direct body-swap comedy Rashid & Rajab, and work with Hollywood celebrities such as Selma Hayek.


His creative studio Lammtara is now developing a mobile game based on the pioneering cartoon series FREEJ, which was added to Netflix in 2020. It has subsequently been dubbed in Japanese, becoming the world’s first Arabic-language animation translated in the language, underpinning Dubai’s growing role in the global entertainment industry.


During Reel Talks, Harib spoke about the skills homegrown talent and aspiring filmmakers need to exhibit in order to get ahead and attract funding for creative projects.


“As I was preparing for this session, I thought to myself: what is the best advice I can give to aspiring creatives,” he said. “Other than your know-how and your business plan, you need to be able to articulate your ideas with charisma; that’s half the game. You need to be mindful of how you behave in-front of game changers and major stakeholders because they are the people who will fund you and create opportunities. Even if they don’t agree to finance your project, at least they will remember the person that was engaging and humble.”


He added: “I’m happy to announce that FREEJ is now on Netflix and the show is also available in Japan. I think it’s the first Arabic show ever to be dubbed in Japanese, so I’m extremely happy about this.”


Having signed deals with Netflix and Cartoon Network Arabic, Harib is among the leading voices and proponents of Emirati animation. And with a growing portfolio of shows and mobile games, his studio Lammtara is going from strength to strength despite the global health crisis.


Several weeks before the UAE’s precautionary measures to combat COVID-19 came into effect, Harib and his team started to work from home. This, he believes, has been a major shift in the creative industries that could radically transform the way cartoon producers create content in the future.


“Because we are a digital company and the bulk of our work is carried out on computers, our structure helped us easily work from home. In the creative field, much of what we do can be done remotely and I think this is a major shift in our sector moving forwards.”


Having kick-started his career at Dubai Media City, Harib praised the community and its two additional media-focused hubs – Dubai Studio City and Dubai Production City – for the support they have continued to provide to homegrown and international creative talent. This has helped Dubai become an increasingly important player in the regional and global media and entertainment industries.


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