MBC Studios, the production arm of the Saudi-owned free-to-air satellite network giant MBC, has unveiled what it claims to be the “biggest TV series” ever to be shot in the country.
Rise of the Witches, a 10-part fantasy-adventure series based on the bestselling books by Saudi author Osamah Al Muslim, is now in production at Neom, the name of the coastal area in the north east of the country due to be home to a much-hyped $500 billion megacity, using three purpose-built studio sets, including Saudi Arabia’s biggest purpose built backlot. MBC Studios recently shot the feature Desert Warrior — starring Anthony Mackie and understood to be the most expensive film made in Saudi Arabia — at Neom, one of two major Hollywood titles it’s producing alongside the Gerard Butler action-thriller Kandahar.
According to MBC, the series is the biggest series ever produced with a homegrown Saudi cast, and also has the largest ever budget for special effects for a Saudi production. No financial details were revealed.
Led by local stars Ida AlKusay and Sumaya Rida, Rise of the Witches tells the story of an epic war between two rival witch covens, led by Afsaar and Da’ja’a. Growing up in a world dominated by male magicians who want to prevent women from having any access to magical powers, both witches secretly learn the arts and go on to form their own groups in order to protect themselves and gain power.
The series is directed by Declan O’Dwyer and Craig Pickles, with production led by Dominic Barlow and MBC Studios KSA general manager Zeinab Abu Alsamh serving as executive producer.
“Rise of the Witches is a true homegrown production, and features recognisable and new faces, with talent both in front of and behind the cameras coming from our very own MBC Academy and MBC Talent hubs,” said Abu Alsamh. “This series will no doubt make household names of the cast — this outstanding fantasy-adventure is not one to be missed.”
Rise of the Witches will launch as a original series on MBC’s streaming platform Shahid, before being sold outside the Middle East by Stewart Till and MBC Studio’s sales team.