Cameras are set to roll in February on the long delayed Arabic adaptation of hit Italian concept movie “Perfect Strangers” with a high-caliber ensemble cast now in place comprising star Lebanese director/actor Nadine Labaki (“Capernaum”).
After being postponed due to both COVID-19 and political turmoil in Lebanon, the latest in a slew of remakes of the dramedy involving cellphones and personal secrets, is now on track for principal photography to start February 2. It will be directed by Lebanese first-timer Wissam Smayra who has co-written the Arabic “Perfect Strangers” screenplay with Gabriel Yammine.
Along with Labaki, the pan-Arabic “Perfect Strangers” cast also features Egypt’s Mona Zaki (“30 Years Ago,” “Scheherazade: Tell Me A Story”); Egypt-based Jordanian actor/director Eyad Nassar (“The Blue Elephant 2”); Lebanon’s Diamand Bou Abboud (“The Fixer”), Adel Karam (“The Insult”), and fellow Lebanese actor/director/playwright/composer Georges Khabbaz, who co-wrote “Capernaum.”
The original “Perfect Strangers” was directed by Italy’s Paolo Genovese and produced by Medusa Films, Leone Film Group and Lotus Productions. It grossed over $31 million domestically and spawned remakes in a dozen territories including France, Germany, Spain, Greece and South Korea that have grossed an estimated total $270 million worldwide.
Variety critic Jay Weissberg in his review of the original said the film plays on the “near-universal fear” people have of having the secrets in their smartphone discovered “via a party game in which dinner guests share all incoming messages” that “calls in a recipe for awkward revelations.”
As previously annnounced, Dubai-based Middle East distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment is co-producing the Arabic version with leading Egyptian indie shingle Film Clinic (“Yomeddine,” “Paranormal”) and prominent Lebanese distributor Empire International. It’s set in Lebanon with the country in the midst of current political turmoil and also coping with the coronavirus pandemic.
“2020 has been a discouraging year for all, but seeing everyone’s conviction, commitment and excitement about this amazing project gives us all an infinite amount of positivity,” said in a statement Mario Jr. Haddad, President of Empire International.
Front Row CEO Gianluca Chakra in the statement noted that “the Middle east has never produced a successful pan-Arab film since audiences are different across each country.” But thanks to the film’s self-contained setting “we hope that by blending in Egyptian and Lebanese talent who play long time friends, we can break this mould and start off a new trend in Arab cinema,” he said.
The plan is to release the pic by the fourth quarter of 2021 across the Middle East.