Netflix’s ‘Perfect Strangers’ Controversial In The Middle East – The Hollywood Reporter

Perfect Stranger, Netflix’s first Arabic-language original feature, which was met with a wave of fury from conservatives across the Middle East within days of its launch on January 20, was attacked by an Egyptian politician criticized and accused, among other things, of perversion, promoting homosexuality and infidelity and even being part of a plot to disrupt Arab society.

The film – the latest in a long line of international remakes of the 2016 Italian hit film Perfect Stranger and play the lead role Capernaum Screenwriter and director Nadine Labaki and Egyptian star Mona Zaki – tell the story of a group of friends in Lebanon on a game night where they make all the calls and text messages on their phones to each other, revealing many secrets and scandals. Although it is expected to become a major topic of discussion and cross the line – having a gay character and other storylines is considered taboo and is rarely discussed live on screen in many places. Middle Eastern countries – few could have foreseen the immediate wave of controversy it would cause.

On Twitter, the film sparked a flurry of homophobic messages, accused by some of promoting homosexuality and “moral degradation” and “infusing Western ideas into a society”. conservatives”. One user accused the film of being a “crime”, adding that not only should the film be banned, but all those involved should face “prosecution”.

Recently, movies like the eternal and West story was blocked from cinemas across much of the Middle East due to LGBTQ issues (even as minors). However, as a streamed movie, Perfect Stranger no need to go through regional censorship and can access Netflix uncut.

Much of the anger stems from Egypt (Perfect Stranger is an Egyptian co-production), especially against Zaki, who in a scene of the film strips off her underwear (although nothing can be seen, as there is no nudity at all). . One Twitter user accused Zaki – a huge star in Egypt – of being part of an overseas agenda aimed at forcing social change.

Going viral outside of social media, Egyptian lawyer Ayman Mahfouz stated that the film was a “plot to disrupt Arab society” and that Zaki was the “champion” of it all. According to reports, Mahfouz – who in 2020 sued the transgender son of Egyptian actor Hesham Selim over an Instagram post he claims to be homophobic – is currently preparing a lawsuit to disqualify him. cancel Perfect Stranger from Netflix.

Various Egyptian news sites and the Arabic edition of CNN have also reported that the film was even mentioned by Egyptian politician Mustafa Bakri, who in a statement before the speaker of the House of Representatives of Egypt. Egypt said the film “incites homosexuality and betrayal.”

In Egypt, unlike the Gulf states, homosexuality is not officially illegal, although it is frequently repressed by society.

But the backlash sparked a wave of support for the film, with many praising both the plot – for its often overlooked real-life themes – and the production itself, and at the same time only quote the attitudes of those who attack it.

“Arabs have lost their minds over a movie showing cheating spouses, teenagers as teenagers, gay characters; made me realize that we have less than 1% left to discuss topics like civilized creatures instead of getting ourselves into a hypocritical regression bubble,” said one user. Meanwhile, a hashtag from supporters that translates as #ImAlsoAPerfectStranger appeared.

One of Egypt’s biggest international stars, Amr Waked, is known for his roles in Syriana, Lucy and Salmon fishing in Yemen, tweeted that anyone “scared” that a movie might change their beliefs really has no faith.

For all furors, in number, Perfect Stranger has been wildly successful to date, topping Netflix’s view charts in the region and helping to bolster momentum for more localized content. In France, it is currently the sixth most popular title on the platform.

The Hollywood Reporter contacted both Netflix and the producers of Perfect Stranger to comment.

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