Jordan has withdrawn the Oscar hopeful Amira from the 2022 international feature film race following a backlash over the subject depicted in the movie: children conceived with sperm smuggled from Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Directed by Mohamed Diab (Clash), Amira premiered at the Venice Film Festival and was selected by Jordan’s Royal Film Commission to represent the country in next year’s Oscar race.
But the movie sparked controversy on social media and among families of Palestinian prisoners and organizations working on prisoners’ rights. A particular flashpoint is a fictional plot point in Amira in which a Palestinian girl finds out she was in fact conceived by sperm from an Israeli prison guard, not the man she grew up idolizing as her father.
“We do believe in the artistic value of the film and that its message doesn’t harm in any way the Palestinian cause nor that of the prisoners; on the contrary, it highlights their plight, their resilience as well as their willingness to live a decent life in spite of the occupation,” the Royal Film Commission said in a statement Thursday withdrawing the film from Oscar consideration. “However, in light of the recent controversy the film has triggered and the perception by some that it is detrimental to the Palestinian cause and out of respect to the feelings of the prisoners and their families, the Royal Film Commission has taken the decision to not have Amira representing Jordan in the Oscars 2022.”
When reached by The Hollywood Reporter, Diab said he and his fellow filmmakers received threats in connection to Amira, and they decided to pull the film from the Red Sea Film Festival, where it was scheduled to screen.
In response to the decision and to the controversy, the Amira filmmakers posted a statement on Facebook, noting that since its Venice premiere, the movie has been shown in numerous festivals and “watched by thousands of Arab, Palestinian and global audiences [and] the consensus has always been that the film depicts the prisoners’ case in a positive and humane way and clearly criticizes the [Israeli] occupation.”
They note that the plot point involving smuggled Israeli sperm is clearly fictional “and cannot happen,” pointing to a disclaimer at the end of the film that states that the more than 100 children born through this smuggling process “have been confirmed as offspring” of their Palestinian fathers.
“The film addresses the suffering and the heroines of prisoners and their families, and shows the mettle of the Palestinian character that always finds a way to resist and continue and tries to dive deep into the importance of children freedom for Palestinians,” they write, saying that discussing the fictional plot outside of this context completely distorts Amira. “It draws an indescribable reverse image of the film.
“The film family understands the anger that many people thought was an abuse to the prisoners and their relatives, and it is a national anger that we understand, but we hoped that the film would be watched before being judged as a copy or a pass. Finally, the supreme purpose of the movie cannot be accounted for the feelings of prisoners and their relatives and those who were hurt because of the foggy image woven around the film.
“We consider Palestinian prisoners and their feelings to be our priority and our main issue, so any movie screening will be suspended, and we demand a special committee to be established by the prisoners and their families to watch and discuss. We believe in the purity of what we presented in the movie Amira, without any offense to prisoners and the Palestinian issue.”
Published at www.hollywoodreporter.com
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