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Why Mona Zaki’s Performance in Perfect Strangers Has Caused a Stir Across the Middle East


Mona Zaki. Photo:

Over the years, Egyptian actor Mona Zaki has grown to become a cinema idol in the Middle East, wowing fans time after time with movies like Keda Okay and Taymour and Shafika. So it comes as no surprise that the star’s latest project, Perfect Strangers—or Ashab, Wala Aaz—was a topic of interest even before its release.


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Marking Mona Zaki’s Netflix debut, Perfect Strangers released on January 20, 2022, and is also Netflix’s very first Arabic film adaptation. The movie, a remake of the Italian film Perfetti Sconosciuti, tells the story of seven friends who come together for a dinner party, and end up discovering secrets and scandals about each other.

Starring Mona Zaki,  Nadine Labaki, Eyad Nassar, Georges Khabbaz, Adel Karam, Fouad Yammine, and Diamand Abou Abboud, Perfect Strangers has taken the internet by storm over the weekend, and has received backlash from certain audiences for Zaki’s depiction of Maryam, a married woman who is in the midst of a virtual romance, and also happens to have a drinking problem. In one particular scene, Maryam is seen in a brazen act that comes as a surprise to watchers, and also led a lawyer to file a complaint against the crew of the film to the Public Prosecutor in Egypt, saying that it is spreading immorality and spotlighting homosexuality. The criticism around the film also led its name to trend on social media this weekend, with opinions around the storyline and Mona Zaki’s character taking over feeds in the region.

In response to the outrage against Perfect Strangers, Khaled Abdel Jalil, Advisor to the Minister of Culture for Cinema Affairs and Head of the Artistic Works Control Authority, said, “This film has nothing to do with Egypt, neither from near nor from afar. This is a completely Lebanese film, and we are not a party to it in any way. This movie is produced by Netflix, an international platform, and they may not ask for it to be shown in Egypt, and if this is requested, the film will be shown to censorship, and is subject to its terms and standards.” Along with this, the head of the censor said, “I did not watch the film, but of course any need that departs from the values, traditions and strict censorship standards that exist in Egypt will not be shown.”

While many have responded with anger online, a large section of fans and public figures have also spoken out in defense of Mona Zaki, highlighting the progressive nature of the movie as a whole, and its efforts to break stereotypes. Rima Njeim took to Instagram to share a post asking audiences to be ashamed of the realities they live with rather than a film, while Nadine Nassib Njeim gave Zaki a shoutout of support on her Instagram stories.

Movie critic Magda Khair-Allah also spoke out for the movie, saying, “The moral judgments on artists over a work of art is non-progressive. An artist is judged by his mastery of the role he presents, or his failure to do so. Those who get offended should not watch the film. The movie is on a platform and not in the cinema, and no one is forced to watch it.” The Acting Professions Syndicate was also quick to share an official statement, revealing that it has “followed closely all the reactions that appeared in the media and social media websites, and some opinions from political figures, individually or representing their parties.” The Syndicate then stated that it was important to preserve the freedom of creativity in a civil state, as it believes that freedom is an important point for Egyptian artists. It also claimed to stand against the verbal abuse and bullying against Egyptian artists, and shared that it supports the values ​​of Egyptian society.

Below, we highlight the many reactions that have been shared in support of Perfect Strangers.


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A post shared by بوسي شلبي (@boosy17)

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