The legendary military leader’s native Tunisia has a dispute over Denzel Washington’s casting as the legendary Carthaginian general Hannibal in Antoine Fuqua’s forthcoming Netflix film. The Carthaginian general’s portrayal in the press and the Tunisian legislature as a Black African has drawn criticism, as claimed by the French publication Courrier International. Yassine Mami, an elected member of parliament, has emphasized that Hannibal was of West Asian Semitic descent. Hannibal was born in 247 BC in Carthage, which is now the capital of Tunis, Tunisia. The politician from Tunisia allegedly said, “There is a risk of falsifying history: we need to take position on this subject.”
Meanwhile, a column in the French-language Tunisian publication La Presse has similarly objected to the portrayal of Hannibal as a Black African, calling it “according to Tunisians and many observers, a historical error.” But Hayet Ketat-Guermazi, the country’s minister of culture in Tunisia, had a distinct, more practical opinion.
“It’s fiction. It is their [Netflix‘s] right to do what they want, Hannibal is a historical figure and we are all proud that he was Tunisian. But what can we do?” she said. She continued by saying that she is attempting to work with Netflix to get a minimum of some of the movies shot in Tunisia. “I hope they decide to shoot at least a sequence of the film here and that that this is publicized.” As stated by Ketat-Guermazi, “We want Tunisia to go back to being a location where foreign films are shot,” Le Monde noted.
Requests for comment from Netflix, Washington, and Fuqua officials did not promptly replied. The outcry in Tunisia around Washington’s portrayal of Hannibal is similar to the commotion that occurred in Egypt in April when Adele James, a British actress of mixed origin, was cast as Cleopatra in Netflix’s documentary “Queen Cleopatra.” The Egyptian queen of the earliest century was descended from a Greek-language lineage and was born in the Egyptian town of Alexandria in 69 BC. The discovery that Cleopatra was not Black but rather of European ancestry sent Egyptian scholars into a tailspin. Authored by thrice Academy Award winner John Logan, who penned Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator,” the picture about the Carthaginian general is yet unnamed.