Denzel Washington’s Casting As Hannibal In Netflix Film Ignites Criticism In Tunisia

The two-time Oscar winner is set to portray the Carthaginian general in a new project for Netflix.
Denzel at the premiere of The Equalizer 3
Denzel at the premiere of The Equalizer 3
Ethan Miller via Getty Images

Denzel Washington’s casting as the ancient Carthaginian general Hannibal in an upcoming Netflix film has reportedly ignited controversy in Tunisia, where the military commander hails from.

Helmed by Antoine Fuqua, the untitled movie will be “based on real-life warrior Hannibal, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest military commanders in history,” according to the film’s synopsis.

The film will focus on the “pivotal battles he led against the Roman Republic during the Second Punic War.”

Last month, the country’s Minister of Cultural Affairs, Hayet Guettat Guermazi, reportedly announced that her department was working to confirm with Netflix that parts of the movie will be filmed in Tunisia.

But now, there have been complaints from the Tunisian parliament and their media about the legendary actor portraying the military commander as a Black man, according to multiple reports.

The controversial project marks Denzel’s sixth collaboration with Fuqua following hit films like The Equalizer and Training Day.

On Monday, Variety reported that Tunisian Member of Parliament Yassine Mami slammed Denzel’s casting, citing the risks of “falsifying history”.

In real life, Hannibal was born in 247 B.C. in Carthage (now known as Tunis, the Tunisian capital), according to an English translation of the Tunisian news outlet La Presse, per Fox News.

Denzel Washington's casting in Antoine Fuqua’s upcoming new Netflix movie was announced last month.
Denzel Washington's casting in Antoine Fuqua’s upcoming new Netflix movie was announced last month.
Ivan Romano via Getty Images

“There is a risk of falsifying history: We need to take position on this subject,” Mami reportedly said, adding that Hannibal was of West Asian Semitic origin.

“This is about defending Tunisian identity and listening to the reactions of civil society.”

On the other hand, the country’s culture minister, Hayet Ketat-Guermazi, reportedly dished out a somewhat optimistic response to Denzel’s casting.

“It’s fiction. It is [Netflix‘s] right to do what they want,” Ketat-Guermazi said, according to French newspaper, Le Monde.

Ketat-Guermazi added: “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.”

Reps for Netflix didn’t immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.

The criticism of Denzel’s casting in the film comes on the heels of the announcement that he’ll be starring as a mystery character in the Gladiator sequel, which is set to release in November 2024.


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