Culture, Middle East

Saudi film festival cancels screening of ‘Amira’ amid Palestinian anger

Film tells story of young girl born from smuggled sperm from Israeli prison

Ibrahim El-Khazen   | 11.12.2021
Saudi film festival cancels screening of ‘Amira’ amid Palestinian anger

ISTANBUL

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival has canceled the screening of a controversial movie that has incited Palestinian anger.

"We regret the cancellation of the screenings of the movie Amira at the request of its producers,” the festival’s administration said on its website, without providing further details.

The film titled Amira, which translates to Princess, tells the story of a young girl born from smuggled sperm while her father was languishing in Israel's Megiddo prison.

However, the girl later realizes that the sperm that was smuggled out of the jail was actually that of an Israeli soldier.

The movie was shot in Jordan in 2019 and is a Jordanian-Egyptian-Palestinian co-production.

The film, directed by Egyptian director Mohamed Diab, was scheduled to represent Jordan at the 94th Academy Awards in the international feature film category in 2022.

However, the Royal Film Commission of Jordan said Thursday that it had decided to withdraw the film from the 2022 Academy Awards in light of the "recent huge controversy that it is detrimental to the Palestinian cause."

Withdrawing the film out of "respect to the feelings of the prisoners and their families," the commission stood by its "artistic value," and argued that it highlights the plight of Palestinian prisoners and "their willingness to live a decent life in spite of the occupation."

The movie was also condemned by Palestinian institutions concerned with prisoners' affairs for questioning the lineage of children born from smuggled sperm of prisoners inside Israeli prisons.

Saudi Arabia launched its first international film festival on Dec. 6 in the country’s western coastal city of Jeddah and is set to end on Dec. 15.

During his participation in the festival, international Palestinian director Hani Abu Asaad told the Egyptian Al-Ahram newspaper on Friday that he supports calls to cancel the screening of the film because of the “sanctity” of Palestinian prisoners.

"Today, we are in our homes, but the prisoners are in prisons, fighting for our freedom, so we cannot ignore their feelings,” he said.

Palestinian statistics show that at least 98 babies have been born using smuggled sperm since 2012.

*Writing by Ibrahim Mukhtar

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