Jordan suspends the screening of Amira after criticism

Jordan suspends the screening of Amira after criticism
The film is set in Palestine and became the first Palestinian film by an Egyptian director. (Twitter/@NesmaJa97)
Short Url
Updated 09 December 2021

Jordan suspends the screening of Amira after criticism

Jordan suspends the screening of Amira after criticism
  • Jordan suspends the screening of Amira
  • Critics have argued that the movie feeds into Israel’s narrative and discounts the suffering of Palestinians and their struggles

AMMAN: Jordan on Thursday suspended the screening of Amira film by Egyptian director Mohamed Diab following heavy criticism that the film “insults Palestinian prisoners.”

The Royal Film Commission of Jordan, the official submitting organization to the Academy Awards, has also decided to withdraw the film Amira for consideration to the 2022 Oscars race.

The Lower House of the Jordanian parliament, the Jordanian Press Association and the Artists Association issued statements over the past two days, condemning the film which they described as “disgraceful and insulting to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and their sacrifices.”

Earlier on Thursday, Palestinian activists launched an online campaign calling for the boycott of a film titled Amira, selected as the Jordanian entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards for mocking Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. Using the hashtag #Pull_Out_Amira and Palestinian and pro-Palestine advocates have called on supporters to boycott the film, arguing that it whitewashes Israeli crimes.

The commission had previously announced that the film would be representing Jordan at the Oscars to compete in the international feature film category for the year 2022.

Amira, Arabic for princess, follows the life of a 17-year-old Palestinian, who was conceived with the smuggled sperm of her father who is serving a life sentence in an Israeli jail.

After her father fails to conceive another child, it is discovered that he is infertile and that Amira’s biological father is actually an Israeli officer.

Critics have argued that this feeds into Israel’s narrative and discounts the suffering of Palestinians and their struggles. 

Jordanians also took to social media platforms, expressing anger over the film and demanding its boycott and withdrawal from the awards, and the hashtag “#BoycottAmiraFilm” was the top trend on over the past 24 hours.

The Lower House Palestine Committee has demanded that the film be banned from screening in Jordan.

In a statement seen by Arab News, head of the panel MP Mohammed Thahrawi called on Jordanian and Arab production companies to develop films that support the rights of Palestinian prisoners and their fight behind bars.

The Jordanian Artists Association denounced the film as “betrayal” to the Palestinian people and their cause. The Palestinian Ministry of Culture also condemned the production and screening of the film.

The Jordanian Press Association (JPA) issued a statement on Thursday, describing the film as “shameful” to the history of Arab drama and “denigrating” the struggle of the Palestinian people and their sacrifices.

JPA council member Khaled Qudah called on the Jordanian government to uncover all facts and circumstances surrounding the film, starting from the writing, directing and screening.

Egyptian filmmaker Diab published a statement on his Facebook account on Thursday in which he announced that “Amira” will be no longer screened until verified and approved by the families of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Publishing the statement in the name of the “Amira” family, Diab said that the film was first screened in September during the Venice International Film Festival and then twice at the El Gouna Film Festival in Cairo and the Carthage Film Festival.

He also said that there was a consensus among the “thousands of Palestinians, Arabs and foreigner viewers that the film tacked the issue of prisoners in a positive and humanitarian manner.”

Justifying the film’s angle, Diab has been quoted as previously claiming that more than 100 children have been conceived using the smuggled-out sperm of incarcerated Palestinians since 2012, saying that it is an issue that needs to be highlighted.


Netflix’s market share squeezed as competition increases: Industry report

Netflix’s market share squeezed as competition increases: Industry report
Updated 17 January 2022

Netflix’s market share squeezed as competition increases: Industry report

Netflix’s market share squeezed as competition increases: Industry report

DUBAI: With more than 200 streaming providers around the globe the number of platforms is proliferating, according to Flixed.

And while the coronavirus pandemic has spurred unprecedented growth in viewership the gradual return to normality has seen a churn in subscribers for many streaming companies.

Netflix, which remains the world leader in the streaming space, last year commanded a 21 percent share of the US subscription video-on-demand market, but with competition increasing, it has been experiencing a slowdown, data analytics firm GlobalData said.

The company’s share of US revenue from subscription streaming video was forecast to shrink to 30.8 percent by the end of 2021, from nearly 50 percent in 2018, according to market researcher eMarketer.

Francesca Gregory, associate analyst in thematic research at GlobalData, said: “Netflix experienced a slow start to 2021, following a light slate of content as pandemic production problems came to the fore.

“Although fresh content in its third quarter boosted subscribers to 214 million, competing platforms are experiencing explosive growth.”

By November, Disney+ had racked up 118 million subscribers, and Amazon Prime had 175 million.

“As the number of streaming platforms increases, and the market approaches peak fragmentation, SVOD platforms will use content portfolios to differentiate themselves,” Gregory added.

For example, Amazon has committed $1 billion to its “The Lord of the Rings” even before an episode has aired, while Netflix was forecast to spend more on original programming than ever before. By 2025, 46.5 percent of its projected $18.92 billion budget will go toward original content, compared with 37.8 percent in 2020, eMarketer said.

Besides content portfolios, companies will have to explore alternative revenue sources.

Gregory said: “We have already started to see Netflix branching out to different areas, with the launch of Netflix Games in November 2021 and a co-streaming partnership with Twitch. I wouldn’t be surprised if the company looked to experiment with more gaming streaming platforms in the future.”

She pointed out that as competition increased during 2022, “reaching different audiences will continue to be a key strategy. Companies that fail to secure a market niche will have a limited shelf life in the crowded SVOD market.”


Media campaigns praised for ‘making a difference’ 

Media campaigns praised for ‘making a difference’ 
Updated 17 January 2022

Media campaigns praised for ‘making a difference’ 

Media campaigns praised for ‘making a difference’ 
  • WARC 2021 awards highlight 56 initiatives for major brands, nonprofits, health groups

DUBAI: Media campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands have been praised for their effectiveness, insight and innovation as part of marketing intelligence firm WARC’s 2021 media awards.

The global awards program, now in its sixth year, rewards communications planning that has made a positive impact on business results. The awards examine the insight, strategy and analytics that influence effective media investment.

This year, the awards saw 56 campaigns win across diverse markets and product categories for global brands including adidas, L’Oreal, McDonald’s, Nespresso and TikTok, and local brands such as Change The Ref in the US, Claro in Chile, NHS England, Omroep Zwart in the Netherlands and Yili in China.

Four juries — one for each category — made up of of experts from both the agency and client-side awarded four grand prix trophies, 10 golds, 17 silvers, 25 bronzes and 12 special awards for specific areas of excellence.

Overall, the UK led with eight wins. China, Germany, the US and Vietnam won four awards each, followed by Canada, which scored three wins. India, Malaysia and New Zealand, each won two awards, and Chile, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Netherlands, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Sri Lanka, Turkey and the UAE each won one award.

In the effective channel integration category, PHD Canada won the grand prix and path-to-purchase award for “Vacation Intervention,” which saw Air Transat convince 75,000 workers not to lose their unused vacation days, with nearly 50 percent of reservations coming from new clients.

“Travel brands tend to be very lower-funnel and promo-led, especially in the lead-up to big holiday seasons. ‘Vacation Intervention’ went the other way with a strong insight, a very interesting central idea and a multi-channel campaign that was fun, topical and successful,” said jury member Ronnie Thomas, group director of global business development Publicis Groupe.

The POE award, which looks at how a strategy successfully linked paid, owned and earned media, and a gold went to FP7 McCann Dubai for “A Dad’s Job” for Home Center. The effective cross-channel measurement award and a silver went to MediaCom’s global campaign “PS5 — 2020’s biggest entertainment launch” for gaming console Sony PlayStation.  

Havas Sports & Entertainment won the grand prix for French welfare association L’Enfant Bleu in the effective use of tech category.

The winning campaign “Undercover Avatar” saw the agency create an in-game confidante to enable children to speak out about abuse. The activity generated 700 million media impressions and resulted in the French government working on solutions that will turn video games into a new way to identify abused children.

“Leveraging a native behavior (and interest) in a smart way — a really powerful way to do things purposefully different,” said judge Luca Vergano, vice president of strategy at Elephant.

The initiative also won two special awards: Most scalable idea and platform pioneer.

MullenLowe US won the special award, the early adopter, and a gold for “Ring King” for Burger King.

In the effective use of partnerships and sponsorships category, McCann Paris and FP7 McCann Dubai won the grand prix and effective native award for Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation for “The Bread Exam.”

The nonprofit collaborated with a traditional baker to create a bread-making video demonstrating how to self-examine. The campaign reached 112 million people, and in nine months increased awareness by 83 percent and screenings by 41 percent.

“They identified breast cancer as something that is difficult to talk about in culture, but managed to make it part of the conversation through the topic of bread making, something that is an integral part of the culture,” said judge Faisal Alani, head of partnerships at eBay.

“They tackled the problem in an incredibly thoughtful way; it really warmed my heart.”

COPA90 won two special swards — the collaboration with an influencer award for Budweiser’s “Messi X Budweiser 644,” and the successful sponsorship award for “Music Keeps Us Playing” for Pepsi and Pepsi MAX, as well as a silver and bronze, respectively.

In the best use of data category, the grand prix and personalization award went to FCB New Zealand for “Personalizing Danger,” a campaign for Water Safety New Zealand. By combining historical, real-time and future data, the agency built a predictive model to reduce deaths of young men from drowning. The campaign reached 95 percent of its target audience and achieved zero deaths. 

“Other entrants are just gathering data. But to actually save lives? If only one life is saved, it’s already a success. This is data put to good use,” said judge Kathrin Jesse, chief strategy officer and partner at Wirz Group, Switzerland.

The data-driven insight award was given to MullenLowe US for Burger King’s “Delay Your Way,” which also won a gold, and the attribution award went to Ekimetrics for “Using Advanced Analytics to Market Profitability in a Pandemic” for hospitality brand Accor, which also won a bronze. 


Russia demands Facebook unblock foreign ministry-linked page

Russia demands Facebook unblock foreign ministry-linked page
Updated 17 January 2022

Russia demands Facebook unblock foreign ministry-linked page

Russia demands Facebook unblock foreign ministry-linked page
  • Russia demanded that Facebook immediately lift all restrictions on the official page of Russian foreign ministry
  • The block was instigated on Friday for publishing “illegal content”
MOSCOW: Russia’s media regulator has demanded that Facebook “immediately” lift all restrictions on the official page of the country’s delegation for arms control talks in Vienna.
The Facebook page, which is affiliated to Russia’s foreign ministry, was taken down on Friday for publishing “illegal content,” according to delegation head Konstantin Gavrilov.
Media watchdog Roskomnadzor said Sunday evening that it has sent a letter to Meta, Facebook’s parent company, “with the demand to immediately lift all restrictions” from the Facebook page and “explain the reasons for introducing them.”
“Such actions of the administration of the Facebook social network violate the key principles of free distribution of information,” Roskomnadzor said.
The regulator added that it considers this an “act of censorship.”
The page was still unavailable on Monday morning.
Gavrilov told state news agency TASS on Sunday that the delegation uses the Facebook page to post statements from Russia’s leadership or the foreign ministry.
“This is a blatant act of censorship in the information space,” Gavrilov said in a statement on Twitter, requesting support from the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
In February 2021, the delegation’s account on Twitter had also been temporarily blocked, TASS reported.
Russia has repeatedly fined US tech giants, including Meta, for ignoring content moderation requests as the country ramps up its control of Internet platforms.
In December, Meta was slapped with its largest fine yet — the equivalent of $27 million — for repeatedly failing to delete illegal content.

Gaza TV studio produces Hamas response to Israeli hit shows

Gaza TV studio produces Hamas response to Israeli hit shows
Updated 17 January 2022

Gaza TV studio produces Hamas response to Israeli hit shows

Gaza TV studio produces Hamas response to Israeli hit shows
  • “We want to flip the equation, to show the Palestinian point of view," says Gaza director Mohammed Soraya

GAZA CITY: In a Gaza TV studio of the ruling Islamist armed movement Hamas, a set features Israeli flags, Hebrew documents and a portrait of Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism.
The make-believe office of enemy state Israel’s security service is being used to shoot a “pro-resistance” television series on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is Hamas’s answer to Israeli hit shows such as the special forces drama “Fauda” that have gained millions of viewers on platforms such as Netflix, HBO and Apple TV+.
“Fauda,” which in Arabic means chaos, portrays a military unit led by commander Doron Kavillio that launches raids inside Palestinian territories.

A portrait of the founder of of modern political Zionism Theodor Hertzl hangs on the set as Palestinian actors and crew shoot a scene of "Qabdat al-Ahrar" in Gaza city on Jan. 10, 2022. (Photo by Mahmud Hams / AFP)

Admitting to having watched “Fauda,” though, is not a good idea in Gaza, the Palestinian coastal enclave blockaded by Israel, said local director Mohammed Soraya.
To watch any Israeli TV series means supporting the “normalization” of relations with the Jewish state, argued Soraya, who is directing Hamas’s own TV series on the conflict.
He charged that such shows “support the Zionist occupation” because their plots “criminalize the Palestinian people,” speaking with AFP in the Gaza City studio.
“We want to flip the equation, to show the Palestinian point of view, to broadcast a drama about the spirit of our resistance.”
Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union. The Islamist group controls the Gaza Strip, an impoverished territory of 2.3 million people.
It also runs the Al-Aqsa channel, and has been investing in series inspired by Hollywood, and by Turkish soap operas that are popular across the Middle East.
The series now in production, “Qabdat Al-Ahrar” (Fist of the Free), revisits a 2018 Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip that resulted in the deaths of seven Hamas fighters and an Israeli officer.
The protagonists are the fighters of Hamas, which has fought four wars against the Jewish state since 2008.

Unlike Israeli series that often feature actors from the country’s Arab-Israeli minority, productions in Gaza do not use any Israeli actors. (Photo by Mahmud Hams / AFP)

Budgets are meagre, actors’ salaries are low, sets are basic and deadlines are tight, with the production team expected to deliver some 30 episodes by April, in time for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
While Israeli series often feature actors from the country’s Arab-Israeli minority, productions in Gaza do not use any Israeli actors.
This forces studios to recruit local actors to play Israelis — a job that, the performers say, can expose them to real-world hostility and danger.
One of them is Jawad Harouda, aged in his early sixties and with a husky voice, who portrays the head of Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service in the new TV series.
To get into character, Harouda said he “soaked up the script,” but added that being too convincing can lead to trouble.
“Some women look at me and pray that I die,” he said, leaning back in his boss’s chair in the fake Shin Bet office.
“I’m happy when people insult me. It means I’ve succeeded ... The actor is a chameleon, he must be able to act out all colors.”
In Gaza productions, Israeli characters speak in Arabic. And, at the request of the Hamas mufti, or Islamic jurist, women wear their headscarves even if they play Jewish characters.

Palestinian women actors have to wear the hijab even if they are playing the part of Israeli women in the film. (Photo by Mahmud Hams / AFP)


“In one series, I played a Jewish woman,” said one actress, Kamila Fadel, who added that she may have been just a little too convincing for her own good.

“After the series was broadcast, a woman tried to strangle me,” she recounted.
“She told me: ‘I hate you, you are hurting us so much’. On another day a 13-year-old boy threw a stone at my head thinking I was Jewish... This means I played my part well.”
Not everyone is a fan of the Hamas productions, which are firmly focused on the conflict.
“There is no love” in the dramas, argued Palestinian director and critic Jamal Abu Alqumsan, who expressed regret that the rare local productions served primarily as a “tool of resistance.”
Abu Alqumsan said the potential for such productions to tell Palestinians’ stories was huge, but the challenges were many.
“In Gaza, we live under a blockade, it’s a unique situation in the world,” he said, speaking in his art gallery, which he hopes to turn into a small film library.
“So we need producers to invest in quality series and tell the rest of the world our story. We have good actors, they just need good directors and means.”
For now, Abu Alqumsan said he was unsure of the impact such shows would have.
“TV dramas are a weapon, but in the face of Israel, local productions are of a low level,” he said.


UK government to cut funding for BBC: Mail on Sunday report

UK government to cut funding for BBC: Mail on Sunday report
Updated 16 January 2022

UK government to cut funding for BBC: Mail on Sunday report

UK government to cut funding for BBC: Mail on Sunday report
  • Freezing license cost at its current £159 would provide some relief to consumers battling rising costs of living
  • But it would also be a large blow to the BBC’s finances as it tries to compete with privately funded news outlets

LONDON: Britain’s government will cut the BBC’s funding by ordering a two-year freeze on the fee that people pay to watch the broadcaster, the Mail on Sunday reported.
The future of the license-payer funded British Broadcasting Corporation is a perpetual topic of political debate, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government most recently suggesting its funding needs to be reformed.
Set against an inflation rate expected to reach a 30-year high of 6 percent or more in April, freezing the license cost at its current 159 pounds ($217.40) would provide some relief to consumers battling sharply rising costs of living.
But it would also be a large blow to the BBC’s finances as it tries to compete with privately funded news outlets and the likes of Netflix and other entertainment streaming services funded by consumer subscriptions.
In November, the government launched negotiations to agree how much the TV license would cost, part of a five year funding settlement due to begin in April 2022.
The Digital, Media, Culture and Sport department declined to comment when asked about the Mail on Sunday report.
Culture secretary Nadine Dorries said that the license fee settlement would be the last such agreement and tweeted a link to the Mail on Sunday article.
“Time now to discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content,” she said on Twitter.
The BBC declined to comment on Dorries’ tweet or the Mail on Sunday report.
The opposition Labour Party said the funding cut was politically motivated.
“The Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary seem hell-bent on attacking this great British institution because they don’t like its journalism,” said Lucy Powell, Labour lawmaker and culture policy chief.
The BBC’s news output is regularly criticized by UK political parties. Its coverage of Brexit issues — central to Johnson’s government — has long been seen as overly critical by supporters of leaving the European Union.
Last week, one Conservative lawmaker said BBC coverage relating to parties in Johnson’s Downing Street residence during coronavirus lockdowns amounted to a “coup attempt” against the prime minister.