Netflix historical film sparks race row over casting of Denzel Washington
Posted by  badge Boss on Dec 13, 2023 - 05:46AM
A heated debate has sparked around Hollywood star Denzel Washington’s casting as Hannibal in a film for Netflix (Picture: Getty)

’s casting as Carthaginian general Hannibal in a new film has sparked debate in Tunisia, the home country of the ancient military leader.

The two-time , was announced as being attached to the untitled in November, teaming him up once more with filmmaker Antonie Fuqua, who has also directed him in the likes of Training Day and .

However, a race row has now erupted over Washington’s suitability for the part, according to local press.

French-language Tunisian publication recently published a piece arguing that considering Hannibal ‘a Black African’ would ‘be an historical error’ according to Tunisians.

Tunisian MP Yassine Mami also brought the matter to parliament, noting that Hannibal was born in 247 BC in Carthage, which is now Tunisian capital Tunis, and was of West Asian Semitic origin.

‘We have no information on the content. There’s a risk of falsifying history,’ he recently said at the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP), according to .

Washington is teaming up with director Antoine Fuqua once more for the currently untitled project about the ancient general (Picture: Getty)

However, Tunisian culture minister Hayet Ketat Guermazi argued: ‘It’s fiction; it’s their right. Hannibal is a historical figure, even if we’re all proud that he’s Tunisian… What could we do?’

She also explained that for her what mattered was the visibility of Tunisia and ‘that they shoot even one sequence in Tunisia and that it’s mentioned’.

‘We want Tunisia to become a platform for foreign films again,’ Ms Guermazi added.

Hannibal riding his elephant, as depicted in the fresco at the Capitole museum in Rome (Picture: Getty)

A petition has also been started online, currently at 1,419 signatures, urging Netflix ‘to cancel their so called ‘documentary’ or ‘fact-based film’’ and calling on Tunisia’s Ministry of Culture ‘to act against this attempt of stealing our history’.

While little detail of the film’s plot has been shared, the movie’s official long line says it will cover the pivotal battles Hannibal led against the Roman Republic during the Second Punic War, which took place between 218 and 201 BC.

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The vast army contained warriors, horses and elephants, and they travelled across the Alps in a dangerous feat.

The backlash for Washington, who will also be appearing in, is reminiscent of that faced by British actress Adele James in April, who and is of mixed heritage.

Adele James (L) also received backlash for her casting as the Eqyptian ruler in Netflix’s Queen Cleopatra (Picture: Netflix)

The project was hit with by Egyptian academics arguing that Cleopatra was of European descent and not Black, having been born in the Egyptian city of Alexandria but belonging to a Greek-speaking dynasty. 

James, who was trolled on social media during the ordeal, called the casting backlash ‘fundamentally racist’, telling Steph’s Packed Lunch at the time: ‘It would be naive of me to say that I didn’t expect anything at all, but I didn’t expect the scale of it.

‘And I think it’s distressing for anybody to receive any level of abuse, let alone the scale and the nature of what I’ve received, which is fundamentally racist, all of it.’ has contacted reps for Denzel Washington, Antoine Fuqua and Netflix for comment.