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Queen Cleopatra director calls Black casting backlash 'laughable'

Queen Cleopatra director calls Black casting backlash 'laughable'

Queen Cleopatra director, Tina Gharavi calls the Black casting backlash as “laughable”.

Queen Cleopatra director, Tina Gharavi has described the recent controversy around the casting of its lead as “laughable”.

Queen Cleopatra is a docudrama series coming to Netflix on 10 May 2023. It stars Adele James as Egypt's last pharaoh, Cleopatra and to say that the casting choice has caused a stir would be an understatement.

Before the docudrama series even launched on Netflix, it faces legal action from an Egyptian lawyer via a case filed by the Public Prosecutor over the casting of a Black actress as Cleopatra. The lawyer described the casting as a “crime”.

“Most of what Netflix platform displays do not conform to Islamic and societal values and principles, especially Egyptian ones,” reads a statement published by Egypt Independent. It is claimed that the case states that the documentary promotes Afrocentrism and contradicts Egyptian history.

However, as reported by Dexerto (via Variety) in the latest development, the director of the Netflix series, Tina Gharavi has hit back at the legal action taken against the series and says that the case is “laughable” following accusations of “blackwashing.”

While it can’t be confirmed with absolute certainty, it is widely believed among experts that Cleopatra was of Macedonian Greek ancestry and minorly of Iranian descent.

When speaking to Variety, Gharavi spoke of the casting choice of Dame Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in the 1963 movie. “I remember as a kid seeing Elizabeth Taylor play Cleopatra. I was captivated, but even then, I felt the image was not right,” she said.

“Was her skin really that white? With this new production, could I find the answers about Cleopatra’s heritage and release her from the stranglehold that Hollywood had placed on her image?”

Gharavi continued: “Why shouldn’t Cleopatra be a melanated sister? And why do some people need Cleopatra to be white? Her proximity to whiteness seems to give her value, and for some Egyptians, it seems to really matter.”

“Perhaps, it’s not just that I’ve directed a series that portrays Cleopatra as Black, but that I have asked Egyptians to see themselves as Africans, and they are furious at me for that. I am okay with this,” she added.

Gharavi then went on to praise Adele James for portraying the role of the Pharaoh, saying that she “conveys not only Cleopatra’s beauty but also her strength,” and hit back at the “laughable” threats to “ruin” James’ career.

“So, was Cleopatra Black? We don’t know for sure, but we can be certain she wasn’t white like Elizabeth Taylor. We need to have a conversation with ourselves about our colorism, and the internalised white supremacy that Hollywood has indoctrinated us with,” she concluded.

Queen Cleopatra will be released on Netflix on May 10, 2023.

Featured Image Credit: Netflix

Topics: Netflix, TV And Film