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14 Apr, 2023 19:00

Cleopatra documentary sparks ethnicity row

Critics of Netflix’s ‘Queen Cleopatra’ have accused producers of rewriting history
Cleopatra documentary sparks ethnicity row

An online petition calling for the cancellation of an upcoming Netflix documentary about Cleopatra, Queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, has received tens of thousands of signatures amid accusations that it is “falsifying history” by casting a black actress in the primary role.

The trailer for ‘Queen Cleopatra,’ which debuted online earlier this week ahead of its May 10 release date, was accompanied by a YouTube description that claimed that “Cleopatra’s heritage has been the subject of much academic debate, which has often been ignored by Hollywood.”

However, according to the originators of the online petition featured on the website Change.org, Hollywood has obscured the true debate and replaced it with ‘Afrocentrism’ – which has been described as “centering black American cultural identities in Africa and African history.”

“Afrocentrism is a pseudoscience,” the petition reads. “They are still attempting to falsify history.” The description of the petition explains that Cleopatra was born in Alexandria, Egypt and was of Greek descent. “She was NOT black,” it adds, but cautions that people should “not use this in any way, shape or form to be racist or prejudice[d] against black people.”

“This is no fuel for nationalism either,” it says. “Only for the truth.”

Cleopatra, who was also of Macedonian lineage, ruled in Egypt for a period of 21 years between 51-30 BCE before her death at the age of 39. She spoke Koine Greek as her mother tongue but was the only Ptolemaic leader to learn and regularly use the Egyptian language. Speculation remains as to the exact cause of her death but it is generally agreed by historians to have occurred by her own hand.

The British actress Adele James plays the lead role in the documentary, which was produced by Jada Pinkett-Smith, wife of the actor Will Smith.