Amira filmmakers halt screening amid public outrage

Reem Abdulkader, Thursday 9 Dec 2021

After sparking outrage on social media networks, Amira Director Mohamed Diab announced a halt to the movie’s screenings, via a Facebook post on Thursday.

Amira movie poster

The move was spurred by activists on social media, who said the movie is an insult to the Palestinian cause.

Diab acknowledged their complaints, explaining that the filmmakers understand the anger expressed by many over what they think is an unfair representation of prisoners and their families, but implored them to watch the film before judging it.

He continued by affirming that Palestinian prisoners and their feelings are the filmmakers’ top priority.

“Therefore, all screenings of the film will be stopped, and we demand the establishment of a specialised committee by the prisoners and their families to watch and discuss it. We believe in the purity of what we presented in the Amira film,” added Diab.

The statement came after an online campaign was launched by Palestinian and Jordanian activists under the hashtag #Pull_Out_Amira, calling for the boycotting of the movie, which had been selected as the Jordanian entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards.

The movie first premiered in September at the 78th Venice International Film Festival, where it won two major awards.

The story follows the path of Amira, a 17-year-old Palestinian girl conceived through the smuggled sperm of her imprisoned father.

The controversy surrounding the movie stems from the major plot twist that takes place when Amira’s mother wants to conceive another child, only to find out that her husband’s sperm is infertile, thus revealing that Amira’s biological father is an Israeli soldier.

According to a line displayed at the end of the movie, more than 100 Palestinian children have been conceived using in-vitro fertilization (IVF) with smuggled sperm since 2012.

Though the paternity of these children has been confirmed, it is still unknown exactly how the sperm was smuggled.

Lydia Rimawi, wife of captive Abdulkareem Al-Rimawi, shared her experience on Facebook, saying that she’s proud to have given birth through smuggled sperm.

Describing the scene when she visited her husband in prison with their three-week-old son, Majd, she said “that is when I saw the fear and horror in [the soldiers’] eyes. A large number of soldiers gathered around me and the Israeli Red Cross came to check whether this child was the son of a prisoner.”

“We were denied a visit and stayed in the prison yard; this scene gave me strength, pride and courage. I was proud to give my husband hope and make our dream come true," she added.

"Amira will not break us and the glory will remain. No one on earth can doubt it,” she continued.

The Palestinian Legislative Council also condemned the movie, with Deputy Speaker Hassan Khreisha saying that Amira is a dangerous part of the Israeli war that is waged daily against the Palestinian people.

He pointed out that the film deliberately offended the sacrifices of the prisoners, saying "the film is among the accumulated abuses against the prisoner movement that has managed to force the wardens to respond to its demands."

In a press statement issued by the council on Wednesday, Committee Chairman MP Muhammad Zahrawi called for the film to be banned from Jordanian theatres and urged production companies to make films that support Palestinian prisoners' rights in their struggle behind bars, rather than distorting the facts.

Shortly after, the Head of the Commission of Detainees' Affairs Major General Qadri Abu Bakr said that Jordan had officially decided to stop showing the movie in Amman.

Though set in Palestine, it was shot in Amman and Salt. The cast includes Jordanian actors Saba Mubarak, Tara Abboud – who plays the role of Amira – and Suhaib Nashawan, as well as the Palestinian actors Ali Suliman, Waleed Zuaiter and Kais Nashif.

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