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The first Arab movie produced by "Netflix" raises widespread controversy in Egypt

The first Arab movie produced by “Netflix” raises widespread controversy in Egypt

Days after Netflix, the world’s leading platform in the field of streaming, released the movie “Friends and My Dearest”, its first Arab cinematic experience, the work topped social networks in the region, especially in Egypt, where it sparked a great controversy, during which some reached the point of calling for it to be banned under the pretext of “targeting Arab values”. Others flock to see it.
On Thursday, the platform released the movie, which revolves around a dinner party among a group of close friends who take on a challenge based on leaving their phones open on the table and collectively viewing the calls and messages received by each of them, but soon their personal secrets are revealed to each other, including concealing marital infidelities or sexual tendencies. Lesbian.

This work is the Arabic version of the Italian film “Perfect Strangers” (in Italian “Perfetti sconosciuti”), from which many international copies were produced, and directed by the Lebanese Wissam Samira in his first cinematic experiences, while Arab producers participated in its production, including the Egyptian Mohamed Hefzy, President of the Cairo Film Festival.

The starring roles were played by well-known actors, mostly Lebanese, such as Nadine Labaki, Adel Karam and George Khabbaz, in addition to Egyptian star Mona Zaki and Jordanian actor Iyad Nassar.

On the list of most viewed works
Three days after the release of the one hour and 39-minute movie, “Friends and My Loved Ones” topped the list of the most watched works on Netflix in most Arab countries. It also topped social media platforms, especially in Egypt, between supporters and opponents of the ideas presented by the cinematic work.

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But the matter did not stop at just expressing an opinion in the most populous Arab country with more than one hundred and two million people. Egyptian lawyer Ayman Mahfouz filed a lawsuit demanding that the film not be shown publicly because it is “attempting to destroy family values,” according to what was reported. The website of the government newspaper “Akhbar Al-Youm” on Saturday.

The Egyptian parliamentarian, Mostafa Bakri, who is known for filing many lawsuits against artists and writers accused of promoting immoral contents, went so far as to demand the Egyptian Parliament to meet urgently with the aim of “banning” Netflix in Egypt.

A work targeting Arab values ​​and morals
Bakri pointed out that the film “is not the first Netflix work that targets Arab and Egyptian values ​​and morals in particular and defends the phenomenon of homosexuality and contains more than 20 pornographic pronunciations,” although the work that the global platform classified as suitable for those over 16 years old because of the obscene speech in some of his dialogues, It does not contain any pornographic scenes or even a kiss.

Among the most controversial dialogues in the film, the reaction of a father (played by the Lebanese role of George Khabbaz) with his 17-year-old daughter, who asked him about his opinion on the possibility of her having an intimate relationship with her boyfriend, so he left her the freedom to act as she saw fit.

Opinions are divided between supporters and opponents
In the past few days, social networks were flooded with a torrent of comments on the film, which many criticized, considering that it was “blindly” adapted from a Western movie without any consideration for Arab values ​​or peculiarities, while others praised the work, considering that it conveys a realistic picture of real events and problems that exist. In Arab societies, despite some attempt to hide it.

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Egyptian art critic Tariq El-Shennawy said in televised statements that what is said about the film “promoting homosexuality…is not true,” adding, “We are now prosecuting fiction and considering it a reality.”

El-Shennawy said that the Egyptian state “has no control over what is shown on the Netflix platform,” explaining that the film was far from the Egyptian atmosphere and “even the dialogue vocabulary in the film is Lebanese.”

Sleepless nights
This wave of Egyptians’ comments came despite the fact that Egyptian cinema presented many social films that critics described as daring and sparked widespread controversy in the conservative society, including the movie “The Night of the Nights,” which in 2003 dealt with problems faced by young couples, including those related to impotence. Marital infidelity and class differences.

Yacoubian’s Building
In 2006, the film The Yacoubian Building, based on the novel by Egyptian writer Alaa Al Aswany, openly discussed homosexuality in a country that does not explicitly prohibit homosexuality but has recorded increasing repression in recent years of members of the LGBT community.
In a remarkable irony, the original Italian version of the controversial work currently in Egypt had won the Best Screenplay Award at the Cairo Film Festival in 2016.

In a country witnessing a rise in hard-line religious discourse, the majority of criticism focused on a woman, Mona Zaki, the only Egyptian actress in this work.

Attack on Ahmed Helmy
Mona Zaki plays the role of a wife who suffers from the extensive interference of her mother-in-law in her life and from the sexual apathy in the relationship with her husband. A lot of attacks focused on her because of a scene in the film in which she appears to remove her underwear from under the dress before leaving the house.

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And the Egyptians’ attack did not stop with the actress, but they even attacked her husband, the famous Egyptian artist Ahmed Helmy, who was criticized by some on social media for “allowing his wife to perform such a work.”
On the other hand, activists on social networks, including Egyptian and Arab artists, expressed their support for Mona Zaki and their denunciation of the campaign.

Among them is the prominent Egyptian left-wing activist Khaled Ali, who praised actress Mona Zaki and her record of successful films, describing the movie “Friends and My Dearest” on Facebook as “bold and unconventional.”