Tunisia Doesn’t Want Denzel Washington to Play General Hannibal
There’s heated debate in Tunisia about the casting of Denzel Washington as the ancient Carthaginian general Hannibal in an upcoming Netflix film. Hannibal was born in 247 BC in Carthage and was of West Asian Semitic origin as such Tunisians don’t want the character to be portrayed as a Black African.
Yassine Mami, a member of parliament, said there is a risk of falsifying history. “We need to take position on this subject.” Academy Award winner Denzel Washington being cast as General Hannibal is being described as a historical error.
An online petition, signed by 1,300 people is being circulated urging Netflix to cancel its pseudo-documentary. It also called on the Ministry of Culture to take action against the attempt to steal Tunisian history.
Who Was General Hannibal?
Hannibal Barca, born in 247 BC in North Africa, was one of the greatest generals and statesman of Carthage. At the young age of 26, he commanded Carthage’s empire in Spain and consolidated control in the region.
Historians say Hannibal led a Carthaginian attack on Saguntum – an independent city in the middle of eastern Spanish coast, allied with Rome. His troops besieged Saguntum for eight months. Hannibal went onto invade Italy, assembled a massive army – 90,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry, and nearly 40 elephants. They marched 1,000 miles through the Pyrenees, across the Rhone River and the Alps and into Italy.
Various reports say Hannibal was of Phoenician descent, a region encompassing modern Lebanon and Syria. But his skin color is not known.
Tunisia has a Race Issue
Mami, the Tunisian MP, says this is about defending Tunisian identity and listening to the reactions of civil society. Hayet Ketat Guermazi, the Culture Minister, said the ministry was focused on negotiating with Netflix to shoot some sequences of the film in Tunisia. She argued that 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? What matters to me is that they shoot even one sequence in Tunisia and mention it. We want Tunisia to become a platform for foreign films again”
Guermazi said they want Tunisia to go back to being a location where foreign films are shot.