“The Exchange”: An Exclusive With Karim El Shenawy On the Cutthroat Female-Centric Show Set in Kuwait’s Stock Market

Inspired by a true story, one that taps into the male-dominated world of the Kuwaiti stock market is “The Exchange”, a Netflix show that introduces two women who disrupted the inner-workings of the financial world back in the 80s. Set to premiere on February 8, the female-centric show promises to bring a fresh look in what can be possible in a male-dominated space.

“At the end of the day, this is a show about humans, it’s a story about women making waves and making a difference in a male dominated environment.”

Karim El Shenawy, Director of “The Exchange”

Through Karim El Shenawy, the Egyptian director who played a big role in this exciting project, we got to unpack and discover the key facets of the show as well as the overarching goal behind its creation.

Based On A True Story

Back in the 80s, the stock market was a bustling and thriving hub within the city of Kuwait. “That significant time saw the very early birds of the financial market in Kuwait, the early female investors” said El Shenawy. That is the very core and basis of “The Exchange” and what makes it special is that these very women from the 80s who worked in the stock exchange were actually related to the show’s creator Nadia Ahmad and so this is akin to a passion project reborn in the modern age.

“‘The Exchange’ is a labor of love, the result of years of collaboration and hard work as we researched the 80s to build the visceral world in an authentic way. From interviews with historians and people who lived through these experiences, to polishing the plotlines, The Exchange was a creative rollercoaster and we are so excited to see it launch on Netflix,”

Anne and Adam Sobel, the show’s creators Via Esquire

Character Driven At Its Core

With the show being set within a replica of a typical 1980s Kuwaiti stock market, many of its scenes take place within its bustling interiors packed with traders and brokers streaming in and out of its doors. That is the environment and beating heart of the series yet at the same time, the true core of the series are its characters. “The main focus was the people and their background stories. Their struggles, success, friendship, all were intrinsic themes of the show” said El Shenaway.

The way the show was shot was all about letting the characters themselves tell the story. To El Shenawy, it wasn’t about creating a technically driven larger than life production with exceptional filmmaking and cinematography. From the moment he read the script, his immediate connection to the two characters of Munira and Farida set him out to let them be the drivers of the story.

“I always like to pick character driven stories, those are the types of stories that always have interested me. Whenever I read any script, the first thing that attracts me are the characters, I would immediately catch on to their struggle and connecting to them”

Via El Shenawy

So with that, let’s first meet recent divorcee Farida, a stay at home mum who now feels like a fish out of water after being plucked out of a 13 year marriage to her husband Omar. Born into a wealthy family, she had to continue her socialite life of extravagant parties amid gossip of her recent divorce. Not allowing herself to be pulled down by the divorce, she takes quite the leap by entering into the world of stock exchange.

On the other side of the coin is Munira, a fire-cracker who paved a career for herself, landing herself within the stock market. She’s edgy and competitive, dominating every room and space she would enter. Every action she takes exemplifies that in your face persona whether its how she boldly stands in the middle of an elevator packed with men or how she’d barge into the men’s bathroom knowing the building doesn’t offer a ladies room.

The two are starkly different characters yet both set to change the narrative as well as the inner workings of the stock market. When it comes to the overarching goal behind this show, El Shenawy kept it simple: “We want a story that will encourage people and inspire them”. Knowing that what Munira and Farida accomplished within the stock market is no easy feat will definitely have many viewers inspired, maybe even wanting to follow in their same footsteps.

With the exciting show set to soon arrive to Netflix, everyone will get to watch the misadventures of Munira and Farida, their daily interactions with their male co-workers and how they will pave a space for women while changing the narrative of what can be accomplished in the workplace.

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