First Arab Netflix movie sparks controversy in Egypt

The first Arabic film made especially for Netflix leads to a fuss in Egypt. Conservative Egyptians believe that the film Perfect Strangers propagates homosexuality and take offense that topics are discussed that they have declared taboo. A controversial Egyptian presenter and member of parliament has complawed to the President of Parliament.

It is striking that the film is not set at all in Egypt, but in Lebanon. As in the Italian original, it revolves around a group of seven people who decide to play a game during a dinner party. Everyone puts their phone on the table and everyone can watch or listen in with all the messages and phone calls that come in from that moment on.

Subsequently, conversations about sex and extramarital affairs arise. The characters in the movie also drink alcohol. In addition, one of the characters is homosexual. Although homosexuality is not formally prohibited in Egypt, LGBTI people are prosecuted on the basis of a law against debauchery and prostitution. There is also a strong social taboo on homosexuality. According to the website Egyptian Streets, social media responds to the film with a lot of homophobia.

The movie trailer:

One of the actresses in the film is the Egyptian Mona Zaki. Conservative Egyptians also fall about taking off her underwear in one of the scenes. That is not visible in the picture by the way. There is no nude in the movie either.

An Egyptian lawyer undertook an attempt to ban the film, writes the BBC. The censorship department of the Ministry of Culture says that is not possible, because it concerns Lebanese production.

The movie is also receiving acclaim. well-known Egyptian actor Amr Waked, who himself faced criticism for appearing in films with Israeli actors, calls the commentary from the conservative side nonsense: โ€œAnyone who is afraid that a film will affect his faith is not a believer.โ€

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Actress Elham Shahin denounced the parliamentarian who criticized the film: โ€œParliament has nothing to do with Netflix and parliamentarians are not guardians of the people. There are much more daring movies on Netflix.โ€ Shahin recently faced a fuss herself when she announced that she wanted to play a prostitute in a performance of Jean-Paul Sartres play La Putain respectueuse.

Despite, or perhaps thanks to, the controversy is well watched the movie in the region, writes The Hollywood Reporter. The film is at the top of the list of top-watched films in the Arab region, and in France โ€” where many Arabic-speaking citizens live โ€” at number six.