Concerns about Jordanian king’s birthday led to cancellation of film that plays on his legacy

A controversy in Jordan prompted authorities to pull down a film that was set to highlight the Arab nation’s past exploitation of Palestinian laborers. Jordan’s king on Monday agreed to release the movie in its entirety, after Palestinian officials threatened to cut off aid to the country unless the film was dropped. Tareq Ali, the director of the film, or Jamal, said that the decision was a relief. “I just feel so elated, so satisfied, so relieved to have finally reached a place in my life where I can celebrate like this,” he told Reuters. “It’s a great moment for me and my whole team, and I hope it will set a new precedent for other filmmakers in the region to do things differently.” Jordan has long drawn labor migrants from Palestinian-dominated East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, and the country paid more than $1 billion in compensation to laborers in 2016. Many Palestinian workers are also referred to as “virgines” in Jordan.

The film was scheduled to premiere on Thursday. However, Prince Hassan bin Talal, who chairs the Palestinian Authority’s official legislative body, demanded that the film be pulled because it played on King Abdullah’s birthday, the local Palestinian Maan news service reported. The movie’s central character is a Jewish-Palestinian friend of the king. He is brought into a secular Jordanian town and forced to marry a local woman. The hero, a film critic named Basil, criticizes his government for setting quotas for Palestinians to become civil servants. When he is rejected, he teams up with an East Jerusalem-born East Jerusalem district judge who became a de facto kingmaker in Jordan to help him break the quota. The judge and the moonlighting moonlighter are blackmailed into working for Abdullah, who as the servant’s government is forced to open up the prison to allow the emigration of their hero.

The film’s Jordanian distributor, Hubert Bals’ productions, which has released over 500 films around the world, announced Monday that it has asked the Arab country’s Central Agency for Audiovisual Establishment (Bida) to reconsider its decision to cancel the premiere. Omar Tawas, an official at the Saudi-based Hurriyet newspaper and the film’s producer, told Al Hayat newspaper that his company would appeal to the government for an agreement to release the film. The media outlet Al Manar reported that Jordan’s minister of culture and information, Shakar Abbas, had ordered the premiere to be put back on the schedule and said that the film would receive a full refund. Jordanian authorities have not confirmed that the film will be seen in full, but they say the festival screening will take place in a few days. It remains unclear whether the controversy will distract from the film’s message about a man who is compelled to use the power of cinema to seek justice for Palestinians.

Read the full story at Reuters.

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