By Shivani Mathur

Honesty. It means very different things to different people, especially in this post-truth era. Honesty. Honesty of what? Honesty of Character? Honesty of Craft? Honesty of Intention?

Honesty has been a virtue consistently made synonymous to righteousness and integrity, but what’s interesting to note is that over the years, the degrees of honesty that people openly follow, the amount of levy that we give to half-truths, the fine print, and marginal deceit; only seems to be shooting up. This isn’t necessarily in the worst of connotations: while a lot of debate about honesty (or rather, lack thereof) in public discourse is to do with politicians, world leaders, corruption and unaccountability; a lot of exaggeration and half—truths have become prominent in the light of advertising and branding. The kicker? This lack of full disclosure and complete honesty is often already known to consumers and people, and heavily normalised. The paramount element of stellar campaigns, the yardstick that separates impactful advertisements from those that aren’t, is innovation. And to make things look innovative, often times we see that saleability and usefulness of things are amplified through theatrical antics, gimmicks, and exaggerated claims. How honest this is, how ethical this is, is an open-ended question without a black and white answer, but to see Mohammed Saeed Harib’s perception of Honesty, tune into Creative Mornings this October, Wednesday the 17th at 8:30am.

Mohammed Saeed Harib

Best known as the man behind the animated TV series FREEJ, Mohammed Saeed Harib is the Chairman of Lammtara Art Production and the talented creator of stage shows, feature films and gaming apps.

Mohammed’s journey from an arts student to a pioneer for Emirati animation started in 1998 at the Northeastern University in Boston, where he studied General Arts and Animation. Mohammed first had the idea for FREEJ while at university but it took nearly ten years – and plenty of determination – for the show to come to fruition.

Shortly after founding Lammtara in 2005, Mohammed started production of FREEJ, a hugely popular 3D animated TV series that features caricatures of Emirati grandmothers. FREEJ was voted by Dubai One viewers as the number one TV show of 2006, 2007 and 2008, and the first season received the Special Country Award at the Hamburg Animation Awards in 2007. The fifth season was aired in 2013.

In 2009, building on his success with FREEJ, Mohammed directed the largest Arabic theatrical production in the Middle East, FREEJ Folklore. This unique stage show, which celebrates UAE heritage and culture, was staged at the Madinat Jumeirah Arena in both English and Arabic. It created the illusion of holographic animated FREEJ characters interacting with real life performers, and was accompanied by performances from the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Back at the drawing board, Mohammed created and directed an Emirati cartoon series and a gaming app called Mandoos, which teaches children about UAE heritage and culture. He also produced 28 2D animated stories to feature in the Arabic speaking version of the TV series for kids, Sesame Street.

Mohammed’s talent has taken him overseas, and in 2015 he directed a chapter in Roger Allers’ animated Hollywood production of Kahlil Gibran’s, The Prophet. He worked alongside eight international directors, as well as Salma Hayek and Liam Neeson. Earlier, in 2013, Mohammed was a creative consultant for Kanye West’s art film Cruel Summer, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

Staying closer to his Middle Eastern roots, Mohammed was the director of the UAE’s official 42nd National Day ceremony in Burj Park in 2013, and he is currently directing his first live action feature film with Abu Dhabi’s ImageNation. Further afield, he consulted on the official anthem for the Qatar Handball World Championship in 2015, and he is a Qatar World Cup 2022 ambassador for the Challenge 22 innovation award. Mohammed is currently working in partnership with the Qatar Foundation on three seasons of the animated Siraj series by the Qatar Foundation, which teaches Arabic to children.

Mohammed is recognised worldwide as a pioneer of creative talent in the UAE. In 2007, Mohammed received the Emerging UAE Talent Award at the Dubai International Film Festival, he won Young CEO of the Year in 2008 from CEO Middle East magazine, and he was recognised as one of the World’s Most Influential Arabs from 2008 to 2012 by Arabian Business magazine.