A businessman’s car breaks down in Egypt near the house of a judge. The judge invites him to spend the night with him and he accepts the invitation. During the participation of the businessman, the judge and his friends in Samar’s session that night, the judge proposes to play a game inspired by their work, which is to hold a mock trial for the businessman inspired by a true story She went through a murder that he may have committed unintentionally; The game turns into a tragedy. This is the summary of the Egyptian drama “Night of the White Killing” directed by Hani Ismail and written by Yousry El-Gendy in 1999. It is a story that is very similar to the controversial drama on Netflix “Friends and Dearest” in terms of the idea and the location of the filming confined to a house.
Film Orientalism is one of the branches of Orientalism, which is the stereotypical portrayal of the sons of the East who were colonized by Western powers such as Arabs and Muslims. It is a reductive view of the other that depicts it in an inferior rank or attaches to it unreal qualities at the level of dealing with the characters or even at the visual level when a yellow “filter” is placed in the scenes that show Arab and Islamic countries as a kind of showing that they are desert and dusty places.
The story “Friends and Dearest” also intersects with the famous Italian story “Complete Strangers”, meaning that the work is not new, Arab or international, at the level of the idea. In terms of production, it is very poor in production, as it was filmed in one filming location without various scenes; Which in terms of art transfers it to a home drama, not a movie, as opposed to the rating given on the network platform. Were it not for the presence of great star actors, I do not imagine that he could have achieved any viewership, despite the sensitive topics that the dialogue touched upon. Its closest description is perhaps the family dining table drama, a style of simple production geared towards the middle class, such as the British soap opera Coronaish Street.
The crisis with this dramatic work is not only in its content, which sparked a wide Arab controversy, but with its application of the Orientalist cinematic view in portraying Arabs and dealing with them artistically, whether intentionally or unintentionally; For a start, it should be noted that “friends and dear ones” is not an Arab work in terms of production; It is a Western work in terms of funding and the platform on which it is presented. It is also dubbed into French and reaches countries with multiple languages and cultures. That is, it is closer to Hollywood production in terms of financing and distribution. Therefore, the criteria for judging it differ from the criteria for judging local Arab production.
Film Orientalism is one of the branches of Orientalism, which is the stereotypical portrayal of the sons of the East who were colonized by Western powers such as Arabs and Muslims. It is a reductive view of the other that depicts it in an inferior rank or attaches to it unreal qualities at the level of dealing with the characters or even at the visual level when a yellow “filter” is placed in the scenes that show Arab and Islamic countries as a kind of showing that they are desert and dusty places. One of the criteria for judging Western film productions in terms of Orientalism is the extent to which it has slipped toward the centering of the idea of gender in the East for men and women, and the depiction that there is always a raging crisis; Which deviates from the natural human framework or the human pattern that may be repeated in any society to a characteristic that is closely related to these people through exaggeration.
For this reason, we find at the outset that “friends and dear ones” fell into the trap of Orientalist reductionism in that the dramatic treatment revolved around the idea of multi-level sex, and that it was closely related to Arabs of different nationalities. In most cases, these levels come within a disgraceful framework. Secondly, the dramatic action took an irrational cross section of society in order to serve the previous treatment; It is not known that there are Egyptian families residing in Lebanon that belong to the upper or upper middle class in a way that allows them to this standard of living, and that the husband’s mother accompanies them as well, not to mention the talk about a friendship that binds the Egyptian husband to the Lebanese friend for 20 years without clarifying any possible framework that This social equation appears in a clear fabrication.
It is technically accepted that the production body makes some research effort in order to make sense of the dramatic work, which ensures its success, but it seems that this matter was bypassed in order to bet on the export of a central idea about sex on the lips of big Arab stars of different nationalities to ensure the spread of the work ; Here is the essence of the critical orientalist idea.
In this case, the matter goes beyond freedom of expression, because the latter assumes that there is equal freedom for creativity available to directors and producers from various walks who can express themselves and the problems of their societies in the artistic way they want, and in this way the dramatic productions expressing the different walks of society vary, so that every sector in society finds himself in a certain dramatic genre and form, whether conservative or liberal. But the idea of freedom here is negated first, because the general Arab context does not allow such production to be nationalized by most countries or imposed by several levels of control. Secondly, because Netflix has a clear policy regarding the topics it raises in its productions, and the Arab citizen has no clear channels through which he can express his opinion on this policy, whether before or after production.
It is common knowledge in many film works that may raise controversy among a large segment of the audience that a special screening is given to a selected group to take their opinion and know their impression of the film or drama before it is broadcast, and this has been repeated many times previously, as happened with the movie “Noah” in 2014. Because he embodies the personality of one of the prophets, and because a large segment of Christians and Western churches are considered by producers, this step was taken. By the way, it did not prevent the subsequent attack on the film and the way it handled the story, but at least the producers took a step that shows that the audience has consideration, unlike what happened with “friends and dear ones”, as the divided audience’s opinion was completely ignored before and after production.