Egyptian lawyer Mahmoud al-Semary has sued Netflix over its depiction of the ancient Egyptian leader Cleopatra as black in the forthcoming documentary film ‘Queen Cleopatra’. He demanded that the streaming giant be shut down in Egypt in a complaint filed with the Public Prosecutor on Tuesday.
Calling for the Netflix production team to be punished for participating in a “crime,” al-Semary argued that the recently-released trailer flies in the face of Egyptian history and promotes a divisive Afrocentrism.
“In order to preserve the Egyptian national and cultural identity among Egyptians all over the world there must be pride in the makings of such work,” the attorney said, adding that most of Netflix’s offerings “do not conform to Islamic and societal values and principles, especially Egyptian ones.”
The complaint also accuses Netflix and the makers of ‘Queen Cleopatra’ of “forgery.” Actress Adele James, who portrays the iconic Egyptian queen in the film, vowed to block all detractors on social media after Twitter users accused her of cultural appropriation.
Former Egyptian Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass condemned the production last week for “falsifying facts,” pointing out that “Cleopatra was Greek, meaning that she was blonde, not black.”
Calling on Egyptians to speak out against Netflix’s revisionism, Hawass excoriated the trend that has emerged in some American black populations of claiming the Egyptian civilization actually came from black Africa.
“Netflix is trying to stir up confusion to spread false information that the origin of Egyptian civilization is black,” he said, insisting such claims were categorically false.
Egyptian temples from the era depict the civilization’s kings as racially distinct from the African, Nubian, Libyan, and Asian enemies they are illustrated in combat with, Hawass pointed out. He explained that Egypt did not fall under the leadership of black Africans until the Kingdom of Kush – the 25th dynasty, at the end of the civilization now known as Ancient Egypt. Cleopatra was of Macedonian Greek origin, as were her ancestors, the Ptolemaic dynasty, who had ruled Egypt for nearly three centuries by the time of her reign. All are depicted as black in the documentary.
A Change.org petition launched by two Egyptians calling on Netflix to cancel the miniseries for “falsifying history” attracted over 85,000 signatures in under two days before the platform mysteriously removed it.
Produced by actress Jada Pinkett Smith, the film is set to air next month as part of Netflix’s ‘African Queens’ series.