Egyptian authorities have accused Netflix of misrepresenting history by casting a Black woman to play Cleopatra, its most famous historical figure, in a new series.
“Queen Cleopatra,” which is set to be released May 10, features Adele James in the lead role, a casting decision that the streaming giant says is “a nod to the centuries-long conversation about the ruler’s race” but which officials in Cairo have dismissed as “blatant historical fallacy.”
Producer Jada Pinkett Smith said she wanted to tell the story because ‘we don’t often get to see or hear stories about black queens.’
The trailer, released two weeks ago, claims that Cleopatra was black with ‘curly hair’, which has infuriated Egyptians who slapped down the claim.
Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities argued that the documentary nature of the feature “requires those in charge of its production to investigate accuracy and rely on historical and scientific facts.”
Dr. Mustafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Archeology, said the appearance of Cleopatra in the upcoming series was ‘a falsification of Egyptian history and a blatant historical misconception’
Dr. Waziri said: ‘The film is classified as a documentary and not a drama, the order that the owners of its industry have to investigate accuracy and refer to historical and scientific facts in order to ensure that the history and civilizations of peoples is not falsified.
He added archaeologists and anthropologists should have been referred to when making the series.
Alongside their lengthy statement, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities attached images of artefacts and coins with Cleopatra’s depiction on them.
They said they did this to show off her ‘hellenic (greek) features, in terms of light complexion, drawn nose and fluffy lips.’
Dr. Waziri said the state of rejection that the film witnessed before its screening comes from defending the history of Queen Cleopatra, which is an important and authentic part of ancient Egyptian history.
Dr. Nasser Mekkawy, Head of the Egyptian Department of Archeology at Cairo University added that Cleopatra’s appearance would have been light-skinned due to her Macedonian origins.
He said that Cleopatra descended from an ancient Macedonian dynasty that ruled Egypt for nearly 300 years.
The Ministry also said that anthropology studies and DNA studies conducted on mummies and bones confirmed that Egyptians do not bear the features of South-Saharan Africans.
An Egyptian lawyer filed a case with the country’s public prosecutor demanding Netflix be shutdown.