Nadine Labaki and Mona Zaki to star in Arabic remake of 'Perfect Strangers'

The film's production is expected to kick off in February 2021

Egyptian actress Mona Zaki, left, and award-winning Lebanese actress Nadine Labaki, right, are to star in an upcoming Arabic version of 'Perfect Strangers'. AFP/ AP
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Lebanese award-winning filmmaker and actress Nadine Labaki will star in the new Arabic language remake of the 2016 Italian smash-hit Perfetti sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers).

The production, which has been delayed twice owing to the pandemic, is now set to kick off on February 2.

The film also stars Mona Zaki (Scheherazade, Tell Me A Story) and Eyad Nassar (The Blue Elephant 2), both from Egypt, as well as Lebanese actors Adel Karam (The Insult, Caramel), Diamand Bou Abboud (The Insult) and George Khabbaz, who starred in Ghadi and co-wrote Capernaum).

I saw in this project a rare opportunity to work with some of the brightest stars of the Arab world

Set in Lebanon in the midst of the 2019 revolution and coronavirus pandemic, the story follows a group of seven long-time friends who get together for dinner. They decide to play a game that involves them placing their phones on the dinner table, making all their calls and text messages available to one another. What starts off as fun and games quickly becomes serious as untold secrets are revealed.

The film is produced by Gianluca Chakra, chief executive officer of Front Row Filmed Entertainment; Mohamed Hefzy, chief executive of Film Clinic; and Mario Haddad Jr, president of distribution at Empire International. Mayada Al Hiraki is the film's executive producer.

"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 mould and start off a new trend in Arab cinema by introducing new talent using the strength that each Middle East country has to offer. Finally calling it Arab cinema," said Chakra, in a statement.

Hefzy said: "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 region, making this a truly Arab creative collaboration, even if adapted from an international concept."

Haddad Jr added: "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."

Adapted by Gabriel Yammine and Wissam Smayra, the film will be the latter's debut feature.

The original Italian version was an international success, grossing more than $31 million, and has resulted in countless remakes including Spanish Greek, Turkish and French versions.

The film is expected to be released across the Middle East by the fourth quarter of 2021.