Since last January 20, the new Arabic movie has been available on Netflix Totally strangers By Paulo Genovese: It’s called Messages and secrets (Ashab wala Aa’azoriginally) and in Egypt it was so Lots of criticismon social media and even Parliament, on charges of alleged immorality, violating traditional values and promoting homosexuality.
Messages and secrets It is the first Arabic language movie on Netflix. The director is Wissam Samira, Lebanese, and one of the most prominent actresses there Nadine LabakiShe is also a director, and Mona Zaki. The film takes place in Lebanon, and captures the original 2016 film by Paolo Genovese.
A married couple, married for years and in crisis, decided to organize a dinner at home and invite friends and girlfriends. At the table, the group finds themselves talking about a couple who recently broke up after his wife discovers his lover’s messages on his mobile phone. Inspired by this story, they take part in an experiment: put cell phones in the center of the table and share with everyone the messages or calls received during the evening. From here we learn that each of them had secrets, that no one really knew the other, and that in fact they were “complete strangers”.
The new version focuses on sexual encounters and extramarital affairs and features “drinking” characters. There is no subject specific, there are references to contraception, plastic surgery, there is a father giving his daughter advice on her first sexual experience, there is a woman whose lover asked to take off his underwear and one of the characters is gay. However, there is no explicit sex scene.
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in Egypt, Messages and secrets One of the actresses, Mona Zaki, was subjected to severe criticism, and was subjected to a violent attack on social media, and a wide discussion took place between supporters and opponents. Arabic hashtags mention Mona Zaki and the movie have been popular for days with more than 17,000 comments.
MP and TV journalist Mostafa Bakri spoke in front of Parliament about a movie that “targets the values and traditions of Egyptian and Arab society”, inciting homosexuality and treason. He called for it to be banned and Egypt to stop any collaboration with Netflix. Lawyer Ayman Mahfouz writes BBC Quoted from the site in Arabic al-WatanHe said By filing a lawsuit against the director and producers accusing them of “promoting homosexuality” and speaking of a “conspiracy to drown out the entire Arab community.” Mahfouz also said that he sent a legal note to the Egyptian Minister of Culture to withdraw Messages and secrets.
Anti-gay messages are circulating on social media about moral degradation and the desire to force Western ideas into a conservative society like Egypt. Some users have gone so far as to say that everyone involved in making the film should be prosecuted.
Although the Egyptian Penal Code does not classify any sexual orientation as a crime, homosexuality is socially unacceptable and constantly repressed. Discrimination against LGBT people comes from afar, but the situation worsened with the presidency of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former general who has ruled the country in an authoritarian manner since 2013, when he led the coup against then-President Mohamed Morsi, by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Film critics focused on a scene in which Egyptian actress Mona Zaki says she does not wear underwear. Many accused her, especially on social media, of “violating the values and morals of Egyptian society.”
And the Egyptian Syndicate of Actresses published a memorandum in defense of the actress, saying that it “will support her if anyone tries to take measures against her of any kind”: “The Syndicate will not remain indifferent to any form of verbal abuse.” Or trying to intimidate an Egyptian artist because of an artwork he contributed to.”
Similarly, well-known film critic Tarek El-Shennawy told Egyptian TV etc. “The scene does not deserve all the controversy surrounding it: we did not see anything in the scene that provokes modesty or provokes instincts. No part of the body is shown naked in the film.”
Many famous actors and personalities in the country have also defended the film, basically saying that those who do not share its contents are free not to watch it. Then the Lebanese broadcaster Dima Sadek denounced the hypocrisy of a society in which male betrayal is tolerated and where sexual harassment such as homosexuality is widespread.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian authority responsible for censorship said that Egypt cannot ban Messages and secrets Because it is a Lebanese production.
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