Jordan nominated “Amira” for an Academy Award but banned its screenings after Palestinians complained it “insulted the dignity of prisoners.”
By Pesach Benson, United With Israel
In the face of widespread outrage, Jordan has banned screenings of “Amira,” a film that Palestinians say is an “insult to the dignity” of Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israel.
The Jordanian film is the fictional story of Amira, who was conceived after her father’s sperm was smuggled out of an Israeli prison.
She grows up believing her father, Nawar, is a heroic security prisoner. But her life turns upside down when she discovers that the semen was switched and her biological father is in fact an Israeli prison guard.
Qadri Abu Bakr, who heads the Palestinian Authority’s Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, told Jordanian media that officials in Amman decided to stop screening “Amira.”
He also said that Palestinian and Jordanian authorities would hold a follow-up meeting on Sunday to “prevent the production of movies offensive to the Palestinian prisoners and cause.”
The issue of babies born to prisoners from smuggled sperm is a sensitive Palestinian topic. According to Palestinian sources cited by the Jerusalem Post, more than 100 babies have been conceived by semen smuggled out of Israeli prisons. The prisoners’ wives impregnate themselves through in vitro fertilization.
Successfully conceiving a baby this way costs at least $10,000 and usually significantly more. Palestinian clinics have been known to provide IVF services pro bono if the prisoner is serving a long-term sentence. Fatwas, or Muslim religious rulings issued by Palestinian clergy permit the practice.
Israelis tend to view the children as illegitimate, saying that the sperm cannot survive the journey from prison to clinic unless under special conditions and that the children are usually the product of another father.
The first Palestinian baby was reportedly conceived and born this way in 2012.
Palestinian terror groups were especially vocal in their condemnation of “Amira.” Hamas said the film “serves the Zionist enemy, which seeks to break the will of the Palestinian prisoners,” and called on filmmakers to “show the occupation’s torture and crimes against the prisoners, which violate all international laws.”
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror groups said films should focus on the “victories of the captives movement,” such as the Gilboa prison escape and hunger strikes.
Long-term security prisoners affiliated with those terror groups stand to benefit the most from the sperm smuggling and pro bono fertility treatments.
“Amira” debuted at the Venice Film Festival in September, winning two awards. Jordan nominated the film to the Academy Awards as the kingdom’s official entry for best international feature film. The main character, Amira, is played by up-and-coming Palestinian-Jordanian actress Tara Abboud. The film was written and directed by the award-winning Egyptian producer Mohamed Diab.
Jordan’s Royal Film Commission nominated “Amira” as its Oscar submission in November. In a statement explaining the selection, the commission said, “‘Amira’ is a powerful examination of identity and humanity seen through the eyes of a young girl searching for herself. Mohamed Diab’s masterful filmmaking absorbs the viewer through the nuances of internal conflict so beautifully depicted by his incredible cast, mainly: Tara Abboud, Saba Mubarak and Ali Suliman. This is great, daring filmmaking at its very best.”
Arab media reports have not specified if Jordan intends to withdraw its submission of “Amira” to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. The Academy is scheduled to announce the shortlisted films for the 2022 Oscars on December 21. The awards ceremony will be on March 27.
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