Mohamed Diab's 'Amira' pulls out of Oscar race following backlash

The film has been subject to intense criticism over its storyline involving Palestinian prisoners

A still from Mohamed Diab's 'Amira' starring Tara Abboud. Venice Film Festival
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The Royal Film Commission of Jordan has withdrawn the film Amira from the 2022 Oscars race following an intense online backlash that denounced the film's storyline.

Directed by Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Diab, the film tells the story of 17-year-old Palestinian Amira (Tara Abboud) who was conceived with the smuggled sperm of her imprisoned father (Ali Sulaiman), but whose life is changed when a DNA test shows that he is not her biological father. While Palestinian children have been conceived in real-life using smuggled sperm of Palestinian prisoners who are detained in Israeli jails, the film tells a fictional story.

“In light of the recent huge controversy that 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 not to have Amira representing Jordan for the Academy Awards,” the commission said in a statement released Thursday.

“We do believe in the artistic value of the film 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 statement reads.

Diab also requested all future screenings of his film to be canceled, out of respect for the detainees and called on the formation of a committee by Palestinian prisoners and their families to look at the film and discuss it.

"We consider that the Palestinian prisoners and their feelings are our priority and our main issue,” Diab said in a statement. “So any screenings of the film will be stopped, and we demand the establishment of a specialized committee by the prisoners and their families to watch and discuss it. We believe in the purity of what we presented in Amira's movie, without any insult to the prisoners and the Palestinian cause."

Amira premiered in September at the Venice International Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Venice Horizons Award. It has since screened in a handful of international festivals, including in Al Gouna, Carthage and Chicago. The film was scheduled to show at the Red Sea International Film Festival. The festival cancelled all screenings of the film on Thursday.

Over the last two days, the film has been enveloped in a wave of online outrage and criticism.

Palestinian activists launched a social media campaign with the hashtag, Pull Out Amira, calling for the film’s boycott and saying that its premise insults the dignity of Palestinian prisoners. The film’s rating on IMDB has also since plummeted to a mere 2.1 stars and, at the time of this writing, continues to drop.

Atef Abu Saif, minister of culture of the Palestinian Authority, said in a statement that Amira is “a clear infringement and insult to the dignity of the prisoners, their heroism and their great history of smuggling.”

Several Palestinian news outlets have quoted Palestinian families who have had experiences similar to the film’s characters.

Updated: December 09, 2021, 6:41 PM