Sperm-smuggling movie 'Amira' hits Palestinian raw nerve

Sperm-smuggling movie 'Amira' hits Palestinian raw nerve
A new film by Egyptian film director Mohamed Diab has caused a stir among Palestinians, with some saying that it insults prisoners held by Israel.
3 min read
11 December, 2021
Mohamed Diab hoped to have the film submitted to the Oscars [Getty]

Egyptian film director Mohamed Diab sees his movie "Amira" as a drama that has drawn crowds at international festivals but for many Palestinians it's an insult to their prisoners in Israeli jails.

The story of a girl conceived with sperm smuggled out of prison whose biological father turns out to be an Israeli jailer rather than a Palestinian inmate is not going to the Oscars after all.

After screenings at festivals in Italy, Tunisia and Egypt, Diab, a 43-year-old film-maker educated in New York with several awards to his name, had been counting on Jordan, where Amira was filmed, to nominate it to represent the kingdom at the Oscars.

But instead Jordan has pulled the movie.

"We do believe in the artistic value of the film, and 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," its Royal Film Commission said.

However, it withdrew the film "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".

Its subject matter is not uncommon: dozens of children are said to have been born from vials of sperm smuggled out of Israeli jails by released prisoners who manage to evade the scrutiny of army checkpoints.

The method served Lydia Rimawi, a Palestinian in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to give birth to three children.

But she detests the twist in the tale of Diab's "disgusting" movie.

"It's not a movie such as Amira that will make us bend: nobody on Earth can make us bow our head," she wrote angrily on Facebook.

'Pull Out Amira'

Under the hashtag #Pull Out Amira", social media has been awash with criticism of Diab's work.

"This film insults Palestinian prisoners without ever mentioning the suffering of hundreds of prisoners' families," Reem Jihad tweeted.

Diab, whose movie ends with a disclaimer that more than 100 children have been confirmed as offspring of Palestinian prisoners through sperm smuggling, has called for a "spectator committee made up of prisoners and relatives to watch and discuss" Amira.

He insists the film was not meant to "insult the prisoners or the Palestinian cause in any way".

But the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, which represents more than 4,500 Palestinians held behind bars by Israel, remains adamant.

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"We've watched the film from A to Z and, after many sessions to observe the details, we reject it in its entirety," said its head, Qaddura Fares.

For Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs Gaza and which has hundreds of its members locked up by the Jewish state, the film is nothing more than a "service to the Zionist enemy".

Amira was financed by Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The main actors are Jordanian, with other roles played by Arab Israelis.

In the face of the outcry, Saudi Arabia has pulled the movie from its first Red Sea Film Festival, which opened on Monday.