Is The Exchange on Netflix based on a true story?

By Kieran Burt
Published: February 12, 2023
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Is The Exchange based on a true story? We discuss if the Netflix original series is based on fact or fiction. There are some light spoilers for the show. 

The Exchange is the first Netflix original to come from the Middle East country Kuwait (Source: MovieWeb). It’s created and written by Nadia Ahmad, Anne Sobel, and Adam Sobel and stars Rawan Mahdi and Mona Hussain as Farida and Munira trying to make their way in a male-dominated landscape.

Set in 1987, three years before Saddam Hussein’s invasion, the show is an empowering tale of two women taking on the stock exchange. The six-episode story takes audiences into the complex world of investment with a compelling plot and great production design.

What is The Exchange on Netflix about?

The show follows two women, Farida, played by Rawan Mahdi, and Munira, played by Mona Hussain, as they decide to prove themselves worthy of joining the “corrupt boys club” at the “cutthroat” Kuwaiti Stock Exchange.

At the start of the show, Farida, recently divorced, struggles to provide for her daughter. But she’s determined to get back into the workforce, though it isn’t easy because she’s been a housewife for 13 years.

Thankfully her cousin, Munira, a clerk at the Bank of Tomorrow’s Trading Division at the Kuwait Stock Exchange, offers to help her, and the pair seek to make it in the male-dominated arena. Netflix’s synopsis describes Munira as an independent, smart, and sassy woman, qualities that are needed to succeed.

Though they do receive some pushback from their male counterparts. The trailer shows the pair having to deal with insulting comments and being outright ignored by their co-workers.

Is The Exchange on Netflix based on a true story?

The show is indeed based on a true story, though it isn’t an exact recreation of it. The two starring women, Farida and Munira, are not real, but the events did really happen.

Speaking to Variety, co-creator Nadia Ahmed explained that the story stemmed from her personal background growing up in Kuwait.

“The investment banking business was a big thing in the ’70s and ’80s in Kuwait. There was lots of money to go around and not enough people doing money management, you know what I mean? The stock exchange was booming, investment banking was booming. It was where you would go if you wanted to make some serious money.

“My mom was a single mom — she was solely financially responsible for me, and she wanted the best for me. So she entered the investment banking world, and I was consistently around women who were also doing the same thing, who were shattering stereotypes of Khaleeji [people of the Arabian Peninsula] women. These women were pioneers, they were the first to enter these male-dominated spaces.”

Is The Exchange based on real events?

While not a direct interpretation of real events, the broad strokes of what happens in the show are real. Farida’s father acting as her guardian is a reflection of what goes on in many countries in the Middle East, where women’s independence was (and still is in many ways) controlled by a male, be it her father, brother, or husband.

Co-creators Anne and Adam said that the show “is a labor of love” and is “the result of years of collaboration and hard work as we researched the 80s to build the visceral world in an authentic way. From interviews with historians and people who lived through these experiences to polishing the plotlines, The Exchange was a creative rollercoaster”.

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