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October 17, 2023

James Franco is starring in a Middle Eastern TV crime drama penned by Shades of Blue creator Adi Hasak. Check out a teaser below.

Alongside a cast of actors who hail from the MENA region, the Oscar-nominated 127 Hours star recently wrapped on Karantina, which is being shopped for the first time at Mipcom Cannes this week. Hasak told Deadline he hopes the “gamechanger” crime drama will “do for MENA what Fauda did for Israel and Squid Game did for Korea.”

Based on the German series Tempel, Franco plays an American laying low from the FBI in Beirut who has opened a club called the Miami Rainbow Club, a “taste of Americana,” according to Hasak.

The show’s lead is Yaqoub Al Farhan as Dahab, who is released from jail and promises his paraplegic wife and teenage daughter that he will never return to a world of crime, instead taking a job as an elderly caregiver. But when his daughter’s expensive violin is smashed by a gang who wants to evict his family and have their area gentrified, Dahab’s life is sent spiraling as he attempts to gather enough money to buy a new violin. Joining Al Farhan are Reham Alkassar, Yasmina El Abd, Cynthia Khalifeh, Nicolas Mouawad and Earl Cave.
Joining with Dan March’s Dynamic Television, Hasak said he had first pondered setting the show in Detroit and pitching it to U.S. buyers before he settled on MENA. Asacha Media Group and MBC are also attached.

“The themes are so universal when you think about gentrification and a father living at the bottom of the social ladder,” added Hasak. “So this is a family-first show, a crime show.”

Hasak said he was inspired by the work of Capernaum director Nadine Labaki, the first female Arab director to be nominated for an Oscar, and was in awe of her “Lebanese films in the style of Italian neo-realism that don’t condescend but offer a realistic, heartfelt perspective of the working poor.”

While some MENA movies have gained global acclaim, he is hopeful Karantina will be one of the first TV shows from the region to be a worldwide hit. “You’ve never seen it in television and I know they can do it,” he added.