Egyptians complain over Netflix’s depiction of Cleopatra

A Netflix docudrama series that depicts Queen Cleopatra VII as a black African has sparked controversy in Egypt. A lawyer has filed a complaint that accuses African Queens: Queen Cleopatra of violating media laws and aiming to “erase the Egyptian identity”.

The Netflix Epic Queen Cleopatra, which is releasing on May 10 has sparked controversy in Egypt. The trailer for the docudrama premiered last week and triggered a lot of dissenting opinions about Netflix’s casting decision. The drama features Adele James, a British actor of mixed heritage, as Queen Cleopatra.

Some Egyptian academics argue that Cleopatra, who was born in Alexandria in 69 BC, was European, not Black. According to Variety, an Egyptian lawyer has reportedly filed a formal complaint asking for legal action to be taken to block Netflix entirely in Egypt. Citing alleged violations of the country’s media laws.

Although some scholars agree that Cleopatra was of Macedonian-Greek heritage on her father’s side, her mother’s ethnicity is unknown. The idea has caused some scholars to infer that Cleopatra’s mother was African. Making it possible that she had more than one heritage.

Egyptologist’s allegations

Zahi Hawass, a prominent Egyptologist, and former antiquities minister told the al-Masry al-Youm newspaper: “This is completely fake. Cleopatra was Greek, meaning that she was light-skinned, not black.” Mr. Hawass said. The only rulers of Egypt known to have been black were the Kushite kings of the 25th Dynasty (747-656 BC).

“Netflix is trying to provoke confusion by spreading false and deceptive facts that the origin of the Egyptian civilisation is black,”. He added and called on Egyptians to take a stand against the streaming giant.

On Sunday, lawyer Mahmoud al-Semary filed a complaint with the public prosecutor. Demanding that he take “the necessary legal measures” and block access to Netflix’s services in Egypt.

He alleged that the series included visual material and content that violated Egypt’s media laws. He accused Netflix of trying to “promote the Afrocentric thinking… which includes slogans and writings aimed at distorting and erasing the Egyptian identity”.

Three years ago, plans for a movie about Cleopatra starring the Israeli actress Gal Gadot triggered a heated debate on social media. Some people insist that the role should instead go to an Arab or African actress.

Gadot subsequently defended the casting decision, saying: “We were looking for a Macedonian actress that could fit Cleopatra. She wasn’t there, and I was very passionate about Cleopatra.”

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