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Nadine Labaki, the Lebanese actress and filmmaker who landed an Oscar nomination as director of 2018’s record-smashing feature Capernaum, has been cast in the upcoming Arabic language remake of hit Italian drama Perfect Strangers.
Labaki joins an impressive lineup of Arabic stars, including Mona Zaki (30 Years Ago, Scheherazade: Tell Me A Story, Escaping Tel Aviv), Adel Karam (The Insult, Caramel, Netflix’s Live From Beirut), Eyad Nassar (The Looming Tower, Sons of Rizk 2, The Blue Elephant 2), Diamand Bou Abboud (The Insult, The Sculptor, The Fixer) and Lebanese legend, actor screen and playwright George Khabbaz (Under the Bombs, Ghadi, and co-writer of Capernaum).
First announced in late 2018, the Perfect Strangers remake — a co-production between regional indie heavyweights Front Row Filmed Entertainment, Empire Entertainment and Film-Clinic — has been twice postponed due to both the COVID-19 pandemic and political turmoil in Lebanon, but has now set a production start date of February.
The script — adapted by by Gabriel Yammine and first-time feature director Wissam Smayra— has also been updated, setting the story in Lebanon in the midst of the revolution and dealing with the coronavirus crisis. When a group of seven long-time friends get together for dinner, they decide to play a game that involves them all placing their mobile phones on the table and making all their calls and text messages available to one another. While the game at first is a playful exercise, things get decidedly more serious as untold secrets and acquaintances become public knowledge within the group.
The Perfect Strangers remake is being produced by Front Row CEO Gianluca Chakra (Luxor), Film-Clinic CEO Mohamed Hefzy (Netflix’s Paranormal, Luxor, Sheikh Jackson) and Empire president Mario Haddad Jr., and executive produced by Mayada Al Hiraki.
The critically-acclaimed 2016 Italian original — produced by Medusa Films, Leone Film Group and Lotus Productions — grossed more than $31 million at the global box office and spawned countless remakes that have grossed a collective $270 million worldwide.
“We’ve seen Egyptian films. Lebanese Films. Saudi films. But never an Arab film,” said Chakra. “The Middle East has never produced a successful Pan-Arab film as audiences are different across each country. With a contained environment such as this one, we hope that by blending in Egyptian and Lebanese talent who play long-time friends, we could break this mold and start off a new trend in Arab Cinema by introducing new talent using the strength that each Middle East country has to offer, and finally call it Arab cinema.”
Added Hefzy: “I saw in this project a rare opportunity to work with some of the brightest stars of the Arab World and two of the most influential companies working in the production and distribution of quality cinema in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, making this a truly Arab creative collaboration, even if adapted from an international concept.”
Added Haddad: “2020 has been a discouraging year for all but seeing everyone’s conviction, commitment and excitement to this amazing project gives us all an infinite amount of positivity. 2021 will surely start with a bang here in the MENA.”
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