Netflix’s first Arabic-language original, We Know Each Other…or not, accused of “moral decadence” in the Middle East due to a gay character.
We know each other…or we don’t know, Netflix’s first Arabic original feature film, is the remake of Italian film Perfetti sconosciuti adapted in France under the title Le Jeu. Conservatives in the Middle East a few days after its January 20 launch.
The film criticizes an Egyptian politician who, among other things, accuses him of corruption and promoting homosexuality and infidelity. And even to be part of a conspiracy to disturb the peace of Arab society.
As a reminder, we know each other…or you don’t, starring Nadine Labaki, writer and director of Capernaum and Egyptian star Mona Zaki, telling the story of a group of friends in Lebanon playing a game one night. Where they make all the calls and text messages on their phones available to each other, revealing all their secrets.
The controversy swelled on Twitter, leading to a torrent of anti-gay messages. Thus some accuse the film of promoting homosexuality and “moral degradation”, and of “introducing Western ideas into a conservative society”. One user accused the movie of being a “crime”, adding that not only should it be banned, everyone involved should face “trial”.
Recently, The Eternals by Chloé Zhao was banned and West Side Story was banned from cinemas in most parts of the Middle East due to its inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters. However, since it’s streamed online, we know each other…or not, he didn’t need to go through local censorship and was able to access Netflix uninterrupted.
A great deal of outrage emerged in Egypt (we know each other…Or Not is an Egyptian co-production), directed especially by Mona Zaki, who takes off her underwear in one scene of the movie (although nothing is seen) because he doesn’t There is no nudity at all.) One Twitter user accused Zaki – the megastar in Egypt – of being part of a hidden plan from the outside to force social change.
Politicians are interfering
Outside of social media, Egyptian lawyer Ayman Mahfouz claimed that the film was a “plot to disturb the peace of Arab society” and that Mona Zaki is the “flag-bearer” of it all. according to The Hollywood ReporterAyman Mahfouz – who in 2020 filed a lawsuit against the transgender son of Egyptian actor Hisham Selim over an Instagram post that he said promoted homosexuality – is currently preparing a lawsuit to let us know each other… ou no Netflix.
Various Egyptian news sites and the Arabic version of CNN also reported that the film was even mentioned by Egyptian politician Mustafa Bakri, who said in a statement to the President of the Egyptian Parliament that it “incites perversion and treason.”
In Egypt, unlike the Gulf states, homosexuality is not officially illegal, although it is systematically suppressed in society. But in the face of controversy, there were many supporters of the film, praising both the script – which raises real issues that often get overlooked – and the production itself, while criticizing the attitudes of those who attack it.
Thus, a fan hashtag that translates to #ImAlsoAPerfectStranger appeared on Twitter. One of Egypt’s biggest international stars, Amr Waked, known for his roles in Syriana and Lucy among others, tweeted that anyone “afraid” that a movie might change their faith didn’t really have faith.
Despite all the hype, we know each other… Or Not has been a hit in terms of viewing, topping the Netflix chart in the region and confirming Netflix’s policy of producing more subtitled content. In France, it currently ranks sixth among the top 10 films on the platform.
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