Jordan succumbed to pressure from Palestinian groups to rescind its submission to the Oscars, "Amira," which tells the fictitious story of a Palestinian girl who discovers that she was conceived by sperm from an Israeli prison guard rather than a Palestinian prisoner.
The Kingdom apologized Wednesday for the film's depiction of Palestinian prisoners, which is a sacrosanct issue in Palestinian society, and said it would establish a committee for families of incarcerated Palestinians to discuss the film.
The families of Palestinian prisoners and organizations working on prisoners' rights had already roundly condemned the Jordanian film, and the reactions intensified after Jordan announced that “Amira” would be its Oscar nomination next year for best foreign film.
Israeli Arab actors Ali Suliman and Saleh Bakri did not comment.
The film, which was directed and scripted by Mohamed Diab, addresses the issue of children conceived with sperm smuggled from prisoners in Israeli jails, who are dubbed "ambassadors of freedom."
In an interview with Arab media, Diab said he got the idea for the film after seeing a series of reports on the subject. “It was crazy, and I decided to research it,” he said. He added that he sought to accurately reflect the complex reality of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails – a topic that had previously received almost no attention in the arts.
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The cast of the film includes high-profile Jordanian actresses Saba Mubarak and Tara Abboud, as well as and Palestinian actors Ali Suleiman and Saleh Bakri.
Staining a holy of holies
One of those demanding that Jordan withdraw the film’s nomination on the grounds that it is hurtful and degrading to the prisoners is Mai al-Zaban, whose husband, Omar al-Zaban, is incarcerated in Israeli prison.
“As the wife of the first prisoner to produce children through the smuggling of sperm, I demand that ‘Amira’ be withdrawn as a candidate for the Oscar. Respect should be accorded to the children of the prisoners, the children of freedom,” she tweeted Tuesday.
Sana Daka, who unsuccessfully campaigned for years to be able to have a conjugal prison visit with her husband, ultimately managed to get pregnant through the use of smuggled sperm. In an interview Tuesday with the Israeli Arabic-language Alshams radio station, she also criticized “Amira,” saying that it inflicted harm on the prisoners and their families.
“I regret that Arab [cast] members, some of whom are Palestinians who should produce the real story and publicize the prisoners’ suffering, are participating in this film. Personally, I am prepared for my story and that of my husband to become a film, but unfortunately, no one wants to fund a story that presents the truth rather than distorting it, as the movie ‘Amira’ does.”
Qadri Abu Bakr, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority’s Prisoners Affairs Commission, announced that the Palestinian culture minister, Atef Abu Saif, would approach his Jordanian counterpart in an effort to block the screening and distribution of the film.
The Palestinian Prisoner support organization also came out against “Amira,” claiming that it besmirches the holy of holies of the Palestinian public and that the film’s fictitious plot does damage to the prisoners’ efforts to bring children into the world after Israeli authorities have prevented them from doing so.
Sources at the organization have called on anyone who participated in the production or promotion of the film – “this crime” against the prisoners’ reputation, as it was put – to publicly apologize to the prisoners and their families, including their children, as well as to the Palestinian people.
In the Gaza Strip as well, there was criticism of the film. The Prisoner Affairs Ministry in the Hamas-ruled enclave called it “a low point” and accused it of “exploiting the subject of the prisoners in favor of an interest that serves the occupier and the Zionist entity.”