VS’is the cold shower for Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Diab. His film Amira will not go to the Oscars at the end of March 2022, despite the efforts of the director who had been leading a major campaign, with Jordan, for a month, so that he represents the kingdom in Hollywood. The feature film is currently at the heart of a geopolitical controversy. While the director wanted to evoke a Palestinian family drama, he finds himself confronted with strong Palestinian opposition. The latter believes that the film “serves the Israeli occupation” by “making fun of the prisoners”. This week he announced thatAmira would no longer be broadcast at all because its feature film shocked.
It tells the story of a Palestinian woman born from the insemination of the sperm of her father imprisoned by Israel, a means of bypassing bars that dozens of Palestinian women have used for years. However, she discovers as an adult that the semen used is not in fact that of her father, but of an Israeli jailer, the embodiment of the Israeli occupation. The controversy surrounding this film has continued to swell in recent weeks on social media with harsh Palestinian reviews.
A more than firm Palestinian rejection
“This movie is disgusting,” but “it’s not a movie like Amira which will make us doubt the paternity of our children, ”wrote on Facebook a Palestinian woman, Lydia Rimawi, who recounts having had three children with the sperm of her prisoner husband. And this, thanks to the help of fellow detainees of her husband who managed to get her small vials of semen brought to her, she said, through the nose and beard of Israeli soldiers stationed at checkpoints. Another Palestinian netizen, Reem Jihad, writes on Twitter thatAmira is only an “Israeli scenario without morals”. “This film insults Palestinian prisoners without ever talking about the suffering of hundreds of families of prisoners. “
Faced with the outcry of critics under the keyword “Remove Amira ”, Mohamed Diab called for a“ commission of spectators, made up of prisoners and relatives, to watch and discuss ”on the film. “We have taken care to watch the film from A to Z and, at the end of many sessions to observe the details, we reject it en bloc,” said Qaddoura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, who carries the voice of the over 4,500 Palestinians detained by Israel. “The team had better forget about this film once and for all,” he concludes.
For Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement in power in Gaza, whose hundreds of members are locked up in the prisons of the Hebrew state, this film is nothing more than a “service rendered to the Zionist enemy”. Mohamed Diab himself keeps repeating that he presented “clean work that in no way insults the prisoners or the Palestinian cause”.
The difficult Israeli question in Arab culture
The question of Israel is regularly controversial in the middle of Arab culture. Officially, most Arab countries do not recognize the Hebrew state and therefore their artists are prohibited from going there. In 2017, the Franco-Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri was heard by a military tribunal in Lebanon for having shot part of his film. The Attack in Israel. Journalists and activists had demanded an “apology” from him, accusing him of having with his feature film “normalized” relations with the Hebrew state, officially still at war with Lebanon.
In Algeria, the writer Boualem Sansal has been strongly criticized for having traveled to Israel to receive a literary prize. In 2020, four Arab countries recognized Israel – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan – joining Jordan and Egypt, the country of Mohamed Diab who first signed peace with the state Hebrew in 1979.
Amira was funded by Egypt, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Its main actresses are Jordanian, including Saba Mubarak, but other roles are held by Israeli Arabs. In the face of the outcry, the Royal Jordanian Film Committee announced that it had withdrawn the candidacy ofAmira at the Oscars, citing “the enormous controversy” and saying that he acted “out of respect for the feelings of prisoners and their families”. As for Saudi Arabia, which is holding its first major film festival, it has simply deprogrammed it.