Denzel Washington as Hannibal Sparks Controversy in Tunisia

Netflix’s recent announcement about casting Denzel Washington as the ancient Carthaginian general Hannibal in an untitled epic drama has led to a stirring controversy. Known for his directing prowess, Antoine Fuqua is set to direct the project. The decision, however, did not fly well with Tunisians, as Hannibal is a figure of legend in the country and is deeply revered as a national hero.

Backlash in Tunisia Over Casting

The casting decision sparked an uproar in Tunisia leading to debates in their parliament. French newspaper Courrier International wrote about the concerns reported in Tunisian media. The main bone of contention seems to be the portrayal of the Carthaginian general as a Black African. Yassine Mami, a Tunisian member of parliament, stressed the need for accuracy in historical representations. Tunisian newspaper La Presse also mentioned that portraying Hannibal as a Black African would be a “grave historical error”.

Netflix & its Take on Cultural Representations

Whether Netflix will heed to these criticisms remains to be seen. The film’s script is in the hands of veteran writer John Logan, known for his work in “Gladiator”, “The Aviator”, “Sweeney Todd”, and “Skyfall”. Although Denzel Washington’s acting prowess is undeniable, the casting controversy puts Netflix in a difficult position. It brings back memories of another similar issue where a Netflix docudrama saw Cleopatra played by a black woman, leading to outrage in Egypt.

About the Upcoming Film

The yet-to-be-titled film is Fuqua’s sixth project with Washington. It plans to depict the key battles led by Hannibal against the Roman Empire during the Second Punic War (218-201 B.C.). The movie is still in its early stages of development with no information about when the production might start. Meanwhile, Fuqua continues to work on his Michael Jackson biopic “Man in the Mirror”.

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