“Friends and my dearest” .. Why were viewers shocked by the first Arab Netflix films?

In the Hoba tribes in South America, people tell stories that a lunar eclipse subdues predatory beasts such as lions and mountain snakes. As for the Inca peoples, they believed that a tiger attacked the moon trying to devour it, and that this tiger would finish from the moon and attack the earth, so they used to beat the drums throughout the eclipse to deter it. So, the eclipse was historically associated with myths, legends and strange stories, so it was not surprising that the Lebanese director Wissam Samira used it at the beginning of his feature film “Friends and Dearest”, which took place on the night of a lunar eclipse, and while the luminous face of the moon disappeared, the other face of seven main characters began to exposure.

other half moon

The first Arab movie produced by “Netflix” blew up a lot of rifts, controversies and criticisms of the film’s heroes and makers. The film was accused of promoting “homosexuality”, adopting Western values ​​in social relations, and undermining the conservative values ​​of Arab societies, and Egyptian actress Mona Zaki in particular received the largest share of criticism, so that her participation in the film was considered a “moral fall” due to its content, which caused some people a state of shock. Or alienation, not to mention the open dialogue to the point where it is considered by many to be “shameless”. More importantly, the turbulent social relations depicted during the film, which pushed the issue of homosexuality to the fore in the Arab world.

On the other hand, the film was accepted by a lower category, which considered that it discusses already imposed issues, and that the film is not family-oriented, but is rated for adults (+16 years), and that it is shown on an international platform with a special subscription. With the controversy surrounding the film being moral rather than artistic, we have the right to wonder whether the repeatedly recycled version of the film took Arab viewers into account, as well as about the permissible transmission limits.

The entire film is adapted from Italian director Paolo Genovese’s “Perfect Strangers” work that was a turning point in his career. The original film was crowned with the title of best film in the “David Di Donatello” award (Oscar of Italian cinema), and its text was transformed in the following years into 18 copies (Remake), breaking into the Guinness Book as the most reproduced film and transferred to various languages, to land in our hands the 19th version in the language Arabia. (1)

Owners nor dearestThe foreign version is “Perfect Strangers” and the Arabic version is “Friends or Dearest”.

Arabic non-Arabic movie

But away from all that controversy, the first thing you notice in the film is the director’s reluctance to break into the details, modify its course, and manipulate the composition of the characters in order to produce a version closer to the Arab reality. The same applies to body language and facial expressions. (2)

Hence, in its movements, interactions and dialogue, the film appears as if it has been translated or dubbed, even if the camera angles have not changed. But it is fair to say that the film’s makers have long declared that it is an exact remake of the original work, like the versions that preceded it, and not an Arabization of it.

Typically, film reproductions do not operate uniformly, and only the current owner of the rights to the original film determines whether he or someone else has the right to reproduce the original film, and what constraints govern the production process. In other words, whoever owns the original scenario has the right to impose compliance with some or all of the elements of the scenario. (3)(4)

The problem here is that Wissam Samira accepted the original script and did not see a defect in its vocabulary or events, stressing that the message of the film must be transmitted in the language and vocabulary it came with, and that there is nothing in it that is alien to Arab society. The practices are the same, and the whole thing is nothing more than a transfer of the real image without embellishment.

Owners nor dearest

But what Wissam Samira could do, who was a specialist in making video songs for two decades before this movie, was perhaps negotiating with the production company and trying to drag his work to a point where it fits – even a little – with the spirit of the region to which he is transferred, or on At the very least, it would strip him of some extraneous scenes that did not add anything to the context. What difference did the scene of Mona Zaki removing one of her underwear pieces, for example? What is the dramatic significance of that really? This scene did not add much to the whole context, but the moment of revealing the reason for this came as if it was pushed into the events of the film, while the viewers were busy with another story entirely from his stories.

If the script had been expressed, it would have approached us and resembled us even a little, and the performance of the actors would have been convincing along the line, and the work would have been dressed with some of the spirit of his country, such as those films directed by Nadine Labaki herself. This would have allowed the director to demonstrate his mastery of his tools more, and more importantly, it would have given his participants a weight and heft to match them, not just making them a reflection of other heroes.

Precisely for this reason, the term “molokhia balwain” found a place in the mockery of some of the film. Molokhia with rabbits is an authentic Egyptian dish, but it merged with the western version of the film. Paradoxically, the mallow – yes, that made with wine – was the only thing that intersects with the culture of the region (perhaps with some words selected from the Egyptian and Lebanese dialects), while the wine – the intruder – had an active role in the events, as it spills almost throughout the film, to accompany the bottle and the cup The addictive hand of Maryam (Mona Zaki), who keeps swallowing him until he gets drunk.

To better understand the paradox, let us consider, for example, what happened in the series “Miss Farah.” Its creators kept the story, decor and costumes as they were, but they gave the characters a special dimension, although this did not prevent him from becoming the target of vitriolic criticism. The Egyptian comedy series is a copy of another American called “Jane the virgin”, which in turn is adapted from the Venezuelan series (Juana, la virgen), and revolves around Farah, the sober girl created by her grandmother to shut down and stay away from all kinds of relationships, which is what She makes her very conservative in her relationship with her fiancé, until she suddenly becomes pregnant, after she was accidentally exposed to a microscopic injection.

night without light

Owners nor dearest

The movie “Friends and Dearest” (5) takes place in a house with a garden and a suitable space for a movie that will take place in its entirety in one place. Karam and Diaman Abu Aboud (a newlywed couple trying to have children), George Khabbaz and Nadine Labaki (the host couple), and Fouad Yammine as their single friend.

Friends meet at dinner to watch the eclipse together (6), and their friend who invited them to dinner (Nadine Labaki) suggests playing a game in which they put their mobile phones on the table and openly answer and share all calls, so that messages and conversations are in full view of everyone, so that the game turns into a nightmare .

The general idea is undoubtedly good, and attractive to all ranges of viewers, especially since the film relies on directing its idea by passing it on the tongue of Rabie in a scene in which he erupts and loses control of his nerves, but that publicity and directness and the assertion that the phones are now separating us from each other left a contradictory effect, because the one who said it He utters these words trembling at his friends revealing his secret, which he hid so long from them.

Phones, then, are the main dramatic necessity of the film, manipulating the storyline like a black hole in space that attracts what is in its orbit and hides an amount of mysteries. This idea was to become more central if it was presented in an Arab framework, because smart phones affect us as they affect the whole world, and our obsession with their secrets is similar to what they do to every citizen on the planet. Her sleeping husband is on the phone to open the fingerprint, or when you sit in the metro and find that the passenger next to you follows your Facebook page with you. This is basically the point that made the film the interest of many in the Arab countries, but the film failed them in the end and confined the concerns, problems and motives of its characters within the framework of sex and its suggestions, and then it flattened its characters in terms of what it thought it deepened.

Owners nor dearest

The film ends with an end similar to what happened in the original version, destroying the truth that the game gives them what was coherent, revealing betrayal, fabricated lies and allegations that each of them carries to his partner and his friends, to realize that despite these extended years of friendship are complete strangers, and that they are perhaps in the most spacious scenarios that they have not They would have played that game from the ground up, and they went on with their lives, not because ignorance is bliss sometimes, but because they did not care about the eclipse or the exposure of any other aspects of the moon.



  1. “My friends and my dearest”, the Arabic version of the Italian movie “Perfect strangers .”
  2. “Friends and not dearest” .. Why did he raise all this controversy since its early hours?
  3. Arabization or theft? Learn about the “stolen” Arab films from world cinema | art
  4. How do you secure the rights for a remake of an old movie?
  5. Film remakes are great, but it’s time we tell our own Arab stories
  6. Netflix: First Arabic movie sparks morality row

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