People Are Mad Lena Dunham Is Turning This Refugee's Story Into A Hollywood Film
The actor, writer, producer and director will pen the screen adaptation of 2017's A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea.
In her review of A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea last year, Natasha Walter (Director, Women for Refugee Women) found the author, Melissa Fleming, had somehow managed to stifle the voice of its female Arab protagonist.
"There is no moment in which you feel [Doaa Al] Zamel standing beside you, speaking in your ear," Walter contended of the true story.
Echoes of this sentiment were felt on Tuesday when Variety revealed Lena Dunham will write the screen adaptation of the novel, a traumatic true story of a Syrian woman whose life is changed forever by the country’s civil war.
Emmy-nominated Dunham, 32, was "tapped" to write the film by its heavyweight co-producers, Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams.
Fleming, chief spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), tweeted Dunham was a "remarkable" choice for the role.
Not surprisingly, critics immediately decried the news yet another white woman would convey the deeply personal tale of a marginalized subject.
If Dunham is committed to stories about women from non-white backgrounds she should push for them to be authentic, said the Director of Diversity Arts Australia, Lena Nahlous.
"In an industry with such low levels of representation and opportunities for female screen writers from Arab backgrounds, this is an opportunity to write or co-write with someone who has knowledge and connection to Syrian and Arab culture," Nahlous told ten daily.
"She's spoken about the importance of self-representation of women in the screen industry -- surely this should apply to women of colour too? Would Dunham be outraged if a man was the sole screenwriter of a significant feminist story?"
Upon the news of her role being made public, Dunham tweeted she was "very lucky" to have scored such a gig.
Syrian / Cuban author Suzanne Samin replied by asking her if she had donated to Syrian refugee organizations "before you profit off my people's pain".
“I’m actually donating every penny I make," Dunham responded. "Every step of the way. Not a single one kept. Very honored to be able to do that and I’ll ‘share the receipts’ so to speak.”
In her review of A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea, Walters argued while the book was written "with the best intentions", Zamel's voice was lost in Fleming's re-telling.
With Dunham as screenwriter, Nahlous maintained the film adaptation will likely suffer from the same fate.
"Imagine the story that would be told if it was written by a female writer from Syrian or Arab background, with intimate experience and knowledge of the nuances of the cultures, religions and language," she described.
"A film like this could contribute towards changing perceptions and understandings of Arabs and Syrians in broader society."
Featured image: Getty Images
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