The casting of Denzel Washington as ancient Carthaginian general Hannibal the Conqueror in Antoine Fuqua’s upcoming Netflix film is reportedly sparking controversy in the historical figure’s home country of Tunisia.
French newspaper Courrier International reports that complaints have been raised by a member of Tunisian Parliament, Yassine Mami, about the casting of the military commander.
The politician reportedly took issue with the fact that Hannibal was of West Asian Semitic origin and not a Black African figure. They’re quoted as saying: “There is a risk of falsifying history: we need to take position on this subject.”
French-language Tunisian newspaper La Presse similarly published an editorial objecting in regards to the same “historical error”. Tunisia’s culture minister Hayet Ketat-Guermazi however isn’t so fussed. He tells French newspaper Le Monde (via Variety):
“It’s fiction. It is their [Netflix‘s] right to do what they want. Hannibal is a historical figure and we are all proud that he was Tunisian. But what can we do?
I hope they decide to shoot at least a sequence of the film here and that this is publicized. We want Tunisia to go back to being a location where foreign films are shot.”
The still-untitled film was penned by “Gladiator” and “Skyfall” scribe John Logan and reportedly covers the pivotal battles he led against the Roman Republic during the Second Punic War.
Washington is currently filming Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” sequel which recently resumed shooting post-strike in Malta.