“Disgusting” and “immoral”, the film Amira withdrawn by Jordan from the race for the Oscars


Accused of insulting prisoners held by Israel, as well as their families, the feature film by Egyptian director Mohamed Diab has attracted much criticism in Palestine.

From a family drama to a geopolitical controversy. Egyptian director Mohamed Diab (Women of the bus 678) certainly did not expect his latest film, Amira, does not earn him such a torrent of hatred. A time worn by Jordan for the race for the Oscars 2022, the feature film will ultimately not go to the competition, due to a scenario that “Serves the Israeli occupation” in “Mocking the prisonersAccording to Palestinian critics who abounded on social networks. In addition to ceasing to be broadcast in the country. A cold shower for the filmmaker Mohamed Diab who, after showing Amira at various festivals – in Italy, Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere – for a month campaigned with Jordan, where the film was shot, to represent the kingdom at the Oscars.

The first subject of friction, the film tackles a painful subject, that of the family life of Palestinian detainees imprisoned by Israel. A sensitive theme subverted by a daring scenario: that of the story of Amira, a 17-year-old Palestinian born from the insemination of her father’s sperm, imprisoned by Israel; a way around the bars that dozens of Palestinian women have used for years. The young woman nevertheless discovers, as an adult, that the sperm used for her conception was in fact not that of her Palestinian father, but that of an Israeli jailer, the embodiment of the occupation of the Hebrew state.

Outcry among relatives of detainees

The controversy surrounding this film has continued to swell in recent weeks on social media with harsh Palestinian reviews. “This film is disgusting”, corn “It’s not a movie like Amira which will make us doubt the paternity of our children ”, wrote on Facebook, a Palestinian, Lydia Rimawi, who testifies to having had three children with the semen of her prisoner husband. An operation carried out thanks to the help of fellow detainees of her husband who managed, upon their release, to make him bring small vials of sperm, passed according to her to the nose and beard of the Israeli soldiers stationed at the checkpoints.

Another Palestinian netizen, Reem Jihad, writes on Twitter thatAmira is just one “Immoral Israeli scenario”. “This film insults Palestinian prisoners without ever talking about the suffering of hundreds of families of prisoners.” “We took care to watch the film from A to Z and, after many sessions to observe the details, we reject it altogether”, said Qaddoura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, which carries the voice of the more than 4,500 Palestinians held by Israel. “The team had better forget this film once and for all”, he concluded. For Hamas, the ruling Palestinian Islamist movement in Gaza whose hundreds of members are locked up in the prisons of the Hebrew state, this film is nothing but a “Service rendered to the Zionist enemy”.

Amira was presented in world premiere on September 3 at the Venice Film Festival. Pyramid Movies

Faced with the outcry of critics under the keyword “Remove Amira”, Mohamed Diab has repeatedly said that he presented “Clean work that in no way insults the prisoners or the Palestinian cause”, and called for a “Spectator commission made up of prisoners and relatives to watch and discuss” the film. A point of view shared by the Royal Jordanian Film Committee, which defends a feature film whose “The artistic merit and the message do not harm the Palestinian cause or that of the prisoners; and which, on the contrary, highlight their distress, their resilience as well as their desire to live a decent life despite the occupation ”. A position which, however, did not dissuade the same Committee from withdrawing its support for the film for the 2022 Oscars, “Because of the recent controversy”, and “out of respect for the feelings of prisoners and their families ”

Israel, taboo subject of Arab cinema

The question of Israel is regularly controversial in the middle of Arab culture. Officially, most Arab countries do not recognize the Hebrew state and their artists are therefore 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 asked him for “Apologies”, accusing him of having with his feature film “Standardized” 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 new 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 Hebrew state 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 addition to the actions taken in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, which has been holding its first major film festival in Jeddah since last week, has quite simply canceled the screening of the film.

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