United Media Services has said it will suspend the TV series “El-Malek” (“The King”), which tells the story of the Egyptian pharaoh King Ahmose, after the show’s trailer was criticized by social media users for alleged historical inaccuracies.
The criticism was directed mainly at Amr Youssef, who portrays Ahmose, with claims that his beard is not historically accurate.
People also said that the costumes shown in the trailer failed to represent the era accurately.
However, other social media users said that the criticism stemmed from Egyptians’ fear of their history, highlighting the lack of professionalism in attacking a series based on its trailer alone.
Following the criticism the production company United Media Services announced it will suspend the series until a committee of history specialists and scriptwriting professors shares its views on the controversy.
While some praised the company’s move, others worried that it would affect those working on the series, especially technicians and staff who get paid daily or weekly.
Journalist and TV presenter Lamis Elhadidy said that she respected the production company’s decision and praised officials for acknowledging the comments of specialists.
“This is a decision that indicates respect for specialists’ opinions. After the unflawed mummies parade Egypt gave us, it is not possible to showcase a series that tells part of the history of Egypt containing dramatic mistakes,” Elhadidy added.
Screenwriter Rasha Ezzat told Arab News: “The series had to be suspended because history should not be wrongly told, otherwise you distort the consciousness of generations. (The suspension) had to happen in order to preserve our history, identity, civilization and our reputation in front of the world.”
Egyptian director Yusri Nasrallah said on social media: “Stopping filming and preventing a series from showing is a very dangerous and unacceptable matter. Discuss it and let people judge.”
Screenwriter Amr Samir Atef said: “The money that was spent and the wages of the employees all need to be taken into account, but I will draw attention to the seriousness of the decision to stop a series from the technical point of view, and the impact of this on the drama industry. No producer will dare work on a historical product for years.”
He said that producers will fear being criticized and having their work suspended if they end up working on a historical product.
“A flawed TV series could possibly motivate another filmmaker to produce something free of errors. I ask everyone to discuss the topic calmly and without assuming the existence of conspiracy,” Atef added.
Director Amr Salama said: “I cannot find any reasoning that justifies wasting tens of millions of Egyptian pounds and the efforts of an entire team working on this project for a year. Any artistic work has the right to be creative. If he wants to make pharaohs that have blue skin and wings and fly, he has the right to.”
The series stars Amr Youssef, Maged El-Masry, Saba Mubarak, Reem Mostafa and Mohamed Lotfi, with a screenplay by Mohammad Diab, Khaled Diab and Sherine Diab. It is directed by Hussein Al-Manbawi and produced by Synergy.
The series is based on Naguib Mahfouz’s novel “Thebes at War,” which revolves around King Ahmose and his expulsion of the Hyksos.
The decision to suspend the series follows the successful transfer of a procession of royal mummies from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat in Cairo, which received worldwide praise for its costumes, music and lights.
Sources told Arab News that United Media Services officials took the decision to avoid negative comparisons between the series and the parade.
Their announcement came hours after the parade, with advising the company to seek the help from the procession’s costume designers.
One of the people working on the suspended series told Arab News that he was asked to come in for shooting on Tuesday.
The source said that the team working on the series has been seeking solutions to salvage the production, including shaving Youssef's facial hair and reshooting scenes featuring the actor.
There are hopes this will avoid the series’ postponement and make it possible to air during Ramadan, the source said.