Egyptian lawyer sues Netflix for depicting Cleopatra as Black in new documentary

Egyptian lawyer Mahmoud al-Semary has sued Netflix for depicting Cleopatra as a Black woman in a new documentary.

al-Semary filed a case with the Public Prosecutor to shut down the streaming service in Egypt, following the release of the trailer for Queen Cleopatra – you can watch it below.

As reported by Egypt Independent, the lawyer has demanded that serious legal action be taken against those responsible for the making of the documentary.

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The case claims that the documentary contradicts and distorts Egyptian history in favour of promoting Afrocentrism.

al-Semary described the new depiction of the historic figure as a “crime”, and blamed Netflix’s management team for its participation in the project. He also demanded a thorough investigation of the process, as well as an outright shutdown of Netflix in Egypt.

The case submitted against Netflix stated: “Most of what Netflix platform displays do not conform to Islamic and societal values and principles, especially Egyptian ones.”

It added: “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 complaint has also accused the makers of the documentary and platform management of “forgery”.

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Former Egyptian Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass said that documentary was “falsifying facts”, adding that “This is completely fake. Cleopatra was Greek, meaning that she was blonde, not Black.”

Queen Cleopatra, the last ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty, was born in 69 BC and died in 30 BC in Alexandria.

Back in 2020, it was announced that Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot would portray Cleopatra in a new biopic directed by Patty Jenkins.

Gal Gadot
Gal Gadot CREDIT: REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

The actress later responded to criticisms of “white washing” from fans, saying the role of the Egyptian queen should be played by an Arab or African actress.

“First of all if you want to be true to the facts then Cleopatra was Macedonian,” Gadot told BBC Arabic’s Sam Asi.

“We were looking for a Macedonian actress that could fit Cleopatra. She wasn’t there, and I was very passionate about Cleopatra.”

She added: “I have friends from across the globe, whether they’re Muslims or Christian or Catholic or atheist or Buddhist, or Jewish of course… People are people, and with me I want to celebrate the legacy of Cleopatra and honour this amazing historic icon that I admire so much.”

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