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GreekReporter.comAncient GreeceRenowned Archaeologist Releases Cleopatra Documentary Amid Netflix Controversy

Renowned Archaeologist Releases Cleopatra Documentary Amid Netflix Controversy

Cleopatra Netflix series (left), Zahi Hawass (right)
Famous Egyptologist Zahi Hawass has appeared on a new documentary about Cleopatra after lambasting the Netflix series for historical revisionism. Credit: Netflix (left image) / The Official White House Photo Stream / Public domain / Wikimedia Commons (right image)

Renowned Egyptologist Zahi Hawass recently appeared in a 90-minute documentary about Cleopatra as the controversy brewing around the Netflix production Queen Cleopatra continues to brew following its release on the popular streaming platform.

The new documentary featuring Hawass, simply titled Cleopatra, is now featured on director Curtis Ryan Woodside’s YouTube channel. Hawass, like many prominent Egyptian scholars, has been an outspoken critic of the Netflix series, arguing that Cleopatra should be depicted accurately as a Hellenistic ruler of Macedonian Greek descent.

Meanwhile, Netflix’s documentary series continues to attract criticism and allegations of historical revisionism over the decision to depict Cleopatra VII Philopator as a black woman portrayed by Adele James. Critics of the docudrama series, produced by Jada Pinkett Smith, have decried the casting choice as a misrepresentation of history.

Zahi Hawass releases his own Cleopatra documentary

The new documentary was co-produced by Curtis Ryan Woodside and Sofia Aziz and features commentary by archaeologists like Zahi Hawass and Kathleen Martinez. The full 90-minute feature was released on May 10, the same day the controversial Netflix series debuted, and is available to watch on YouTube.

Perhaps alluding to the recent controversy, the description for the documentary reads “Her story has been warped so much throughout history, from biased opinions to praise, yet who was she really? Everyone thinks they know her, everyone has a different opinion, but most of those are modern, based on films and misinformed play scripts. How much do we really know about the true… Cleopatra.”

The new documentary featured on YouTube purports to tell the “true” story of Cleopatra, who was the Ptolemaic dynasty’s final and most famous ruler.

Controversial Netflix series

After weeks of blistering criticism in the buildup to the release of Netflix’s Queen Cleopatra, the new series debuted on May 10 to dismal reviews from both critics and viewers. On Rotten Tomatoes, the docuseries has received a critics rating of 11% and an even lower rating of 1% by viewers.

The controversy largely revolves around the appearance of Cleopatra. Several high-profile archaeologists and historians in Egypt have dismissed the Netflix documentary as a misrepresentation of history based on the decision to depict the Ptolemaic ruler as a black woman.

For example, the Egyptian Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Archeology Dr. Mustfa Waziri issued a lengthy statement, together with Dr. Nasser Mekkawy, Head of the Egyptian Department of Archaeology at Cairo University, arguing that the historical figure of Cleopatra VII was of Greek descent, contrary to the Netflix series’ depiction.

The issue continues to inspire fierce debate. Zahi Hawass, who was also highly critical of the Netflix series recently revealed that one of his lectures in Los Angeles was interrupted by protestors who were angered by his refusal to entertain the possibility that Cleopatra was black.

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