On Jan 20, the first Netflix original Arabic movie premiered. “Ashab Wala Aa’az” (Perfect Strangers) is an adaptation of the Italian film “Perfetti Sconosciuti.”
With a Lebanese cast and crew, the film is Wissam Smayra’s directorial debut; the pièce de résistance that made the whole Arab world react all over the web the way they did was none other than the Egyptian actress herself, Mona Zaki.
But what was the reaction from the Arab viewers? What exactly caused it? Is it just another Netflix movie or does the whole thing go deeper than that? Let’s dissect.
Lights, Camera, Action!
As mentioned before, the movie is an adaptation of the 2016 Italian film of the same name. It is actually one of the many adaptations that premiered all over the world.
Each nation has its own version delving into the issues and secrets native to the society or nationality of the country it’s adapted into.
The general plot goes as follows: a dinner party unravels when a close group of friends agrees to leave their phones unlocked on the table, exposing secret interactions and dark secrets. Quite the light, approachable plot to most viewers, but the secrets and scandals are what struck a chord with the Arab audience.
Art-wise, the whole movie was truly amazing with a smooth, quick-based dialogue. Characters are well-written and slowly develop; let’s not forget about the cast who are household names like Eyad Nassar, Nadine Labaki, and Mona Zaki. Also, some new faces with massive talent and presence captivated us.
Action and Reaction
Of course, a Netflix movie with a cast this good and acting this exquisite is expected to garner so much attention and success. But not the way anyone thought it would be on social media. The initial reactions were mostly positive with people praising the actors for their performance, the quick-witted dialogue, and how bold and daring the topics at hand were being discussed in the movie.
Although the movie focuses on the importance of honesty in relationships and the harm that modern technology caused to everyone especially couples, some Arab viewers didn’t give the time of day for the main issue and focused on the scandals between the characters.
To be specific, the profanity used mostly by Mona Zaki’s, strong-headed, and alcoholic character. The fact that there is one homosexual male character. The backlash was all-over the place with some just posting about it across different platforms arguing that it doesn’t represent the reality of the Arab world while others just practically asking for it to be banned and removed.
Critique The Critics
Without arguing whether the topics themselves are right or wrong, there is a prevalent issue about the negative feedback. It seems like the whole point of watching the movie, from the eyes of the negative reviewer is to attack and not just criticize, which is not a new thing for viewers in our part of the world.
We can only hope that a movie this daring can change this mentality and make even more room for constructive criticism and conversation starters. So one day, we can say this movie ran so other Arabic Netflix releases can walk.