AFRICANGLOBE – The release of a Hollywood Christmas blockbuster always attracts and excites film lovers, especially if it promises to follow the classic, biblical storyline.
However, this year’s epic Exodus Gods and Kings, directed by Gladiator filmmaker Ridley Scott, has attracted controversy as calls emerge for Black communities to shun the film.
A protest launched on social media websites urging cinema goers to boycott the movie is gathering pace.
The sticking point is the casting.
The move to have Australian actor Joel Edgerton play Pharaoh Ramses II and British actor Christian Bale as Moses has led to the film being branded racist, with the few selected Black actors relegated to playing servants, thieves and lower-class civilians.
It seems the film follows a stereotypical Hollywood tradition of portraying biblical characters as white rather than their true ethnic identities.
But Scott has defended his decision for ‘whitewashing’ the film, declaring that “had white actors not filled most of the key roles, it would never have got off the ground financially”. This is despite his previous promise that he would represent “a confluence of cultures”.
“I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such,” retorted Scott. “I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”
He claim that “there are many different theories about the ethnicity of the Egyptian people” and said that he had “lots of discussions about how to best represent the culture” which ranges from “Iranians, Spaniards to Arabs.”
Co-founders of the organisation Black History Studies (BHS), Mark and Charmaine Simpson, said: “Throughout history Europeans have always tried to hijack the identity of ancient Egyptians, despite countless Egyptologists, scholars, historians, scientists, archaeologists and anthropologists – many of whom are Europeans themselves – have documented information that they were Black.”
The founder of physical anthropology, Dr James Cowles Prichard, made the following statement on the racial identity of the ancient Egyptians in 1813: “It appears from the remark of [Greek historian] Herodotus that woolly hair like that of the Negroes prevailed among the Egyptians, and by comparing this fact with the other characteristics mentioned by [Ancient Greek satirist] Lucian [of Samasota], we are led to infer that this nation had the distinguishing marks of the African race.
“This conclusion is confirmed by the travellers, who have described some of the most ancient Egyptian monuments [i.e. Norden, De Volney, Sonnini and Denon] and particularly the Sphinx which stands amidst the pyramids, and is probably coeval [having the same date of origin] with those venerable fabricks. These figures have exactly the characteristic features of the Negro.”
Other scholars such as the distinguished English philosopher John Stuart Mill, also wrote an insightful and revealing essay entitled The Negro Question, stating: “It is curious, withal, that the earliest known civilisation was, we have the strongest reason to believe, a negro civilisation. The original Egyptians are inferred, from the evidence of their sculptures, to have been a Negro race.”
Responding to Scott’s excuses about why the film had to be overwhelmingly white, BHS said: “It has just been announced that Beyoncé is now the most Grammy-nominated woman of all-time, proving when it suits the mainstream media they can make or break whoever they want.”
On whether the film should be boycotted, historian Dr. Horace Wright said that the community should “vote with their purse”.[/sociallocker]