Somewhat the Arabic cousin of Netflix, Istikina is an on-demand video platform specialized in production and distribution of Arabic and independent movies. Let’s meet his founder, Tareq Abu Lughod…
The industry of Arab movies is flourishing and a lot of new productions are always released on screen, despite the difficulties in funding. However, this production didn’t have a central platform of distribution until recently. A problem now fixed thanks to Tareq Abu Lughod, CEO of Media Arab Network, a company that launched the first on-demand video platform in the Arab world: Istikana.
The website offers a diverse selection of films, ranging from popular comedies, dramas, documentaries, theater, religious programs, and entertainment. A rich program in Arabic, which is also an opportunity for this audiovisual content lover, to promote local and independent cinema.
You are the CEO of the Arab Media Network. Could you present the company to us?
I founded Arab Media Network is 2000 with a mission to become a global producer, distributor, and exhibitor of audio-visual content. It aims at creating and delivering great content to consumers and helping content owners expand their reach and create new revenue streams. To date, Arab Media Network is involved in radio (with Mazaj FM and Radio Dahab, some local and Arabic music stations), TV (AL Studios, a TV Production and Distribution company), and films with Istikana an Arabic SVOD Platform and Filmstan (a film distribution company).
How do you try to spread the culture of alternative cinema in Jordan today?
We have been able to introduce over 30 titles of independent films since last year in mainstream/commercial cinemas. We promote these titles as aggressively and heavily as commercial films to expand their reach and offer audiences an alternative.
What are the biggest difficulties you face in doing that?
Most movie-goers are accustomed to watching big-budget, star-studded films. Smaller, independent films need more publicity and public awareness to attract an audience. And Commercial cinemas don’t provide enough space and time for indie films.
What is the situation of independent cinema in Jordan today?
There are no dedicated cinemas for independent films in Jordan. Most independent films are screened as part of a festival in commercial multiplexes. The Royal Film Commission and The Shoman Foundation are responsible for screening most indie films free for the public.