The film Amira was critisied by activists over its portrayal of the practice of sperm smuggling of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
Jordan has withdrawn its entry “Amira” to the Oscars after heavy criticism that the film “abused the dignity of (Palestinian) prisoners” and their families.
On Thursday, the Egyptian director of the film Mohamed Diab suspended the screening of “Amira” which tells the fictional story of a Palestinian girl, who was thought to have been conceived from the smuggled sperm of her father who is incarcerated in an Israeli prison, a practice that Palestinian prisoner support groups say has led to the birth of almost 100 children in the last 10 years.
Later in the film, however, it is revealed that the man she believes is her father is actually impotent and the smuggled sperm by which the 17-year-old was conceived belonged to an Israeli prison officer.
The film sparked condemnation and backlash on social media and was described as “insulting to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and their sacrifices”.
Social media users launched a campaign against the film using the Arabic hashtag “withdraw Amira film”.
One user said the film is an “Israeli script that carries no morals about the reality of Palestine”.
“The film insults the Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli jails and raises no awareness for the suffering of hundreds of families of prisoners”.
Um Muhannad al Zaben, the first Palestinian mother of a child born through a smuggled sperm commented on the film saying it insults the Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli jails.
“The Palestinian prisoners who heroically fought the greatest battle know very well that this is an Israeli narrative, told by Arab artists,” al Zaben told Quds News Network.
The head of the Palestinian Commission of Detainees Affairs, Qadri Abu Bakr, said: “The process of smuggling sperm is carried out properly, and with the approval of the two families, the prisoner’s family and his wife.”
The criticism led to the Royal Film Commission of Jordan, the official submitting organisation to the Academy Awards, deciding on withdrawing its entry to the Oscars.
The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Culture said the film “abused the dignity of prisoners, their heroism and their great struggle”.
Announcing the withdrawal, the Royal Film Commission of Jordan defended the film saying it did “highlight [prisoners’] plight and resistance as well as their yearning for a dignified life despite the occupation”.
There are 4,650 Palestinians held as political prisoners by the Israeli government, including 160 children, according to the prisoner support charity Addameer.
Families resort to conception through smuggled sperm, the only viable option available to those held in lengthy or indefinite prison terms. Some prisoners are permitted marital visits where they can be intimate with their partners but many decide not to go for this option due to lack of trust in privacy issues.
The smuggled sperm can survive up to 48 hours before it is frozen for the in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment.
Diab, the Egyptian director of the film, has said that he plans on establishing a “special committee” of Palestinian prisoners and their families who will watch the film and discuss it further.
“The consensus has always been that the film depicts the prisoner’s case in a positive and humane way and criticises the occupation clearly,” Diab said on Twitter.
“We understand the anger that many people thought the film was an abuse to the prisoners and their relatives, and we understand that this is a national anger.”