Lena Dunham, JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg criticised for Syrian refugee film: ‘Please hire an Arab writer’

Dunham herself has previously branded Hollywood's lack of diversity 'a very serious problem'

Jacob Stolworthy
Tuesday 30 October 2018 09:54
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JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg have been criticised for hiring Lena Dunham to write a survival tale centred on a Syrian refugee.

The Girls creator is adapting A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea, the nonfiction release from author Melissa Fleming who is the chief spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The story tells the true story of Doaa Al Zamel, a mother of two who became shipwrecked after fleeing Egypt for Sweden by boat. Al Zamel and her children survived in open water for days until they were saved.

Dunham – who will star in Quentin Tarantino’s forthcoming Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – confirmed her appointment on Twitter, writing: “Very lucky to have this job, to tell this story, to support this truth with these people.”

Soon after, however, many began to criticise the decision, questioning whether Dunham is the right person to adapt this particular story for the big screen.

The book, subtitled One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival, was released in 2017. Al Zamel set sail on a smuggler’s dilapidated fishing vessel along with five hundred other refugees, intent on escaping Syria’s civil war. Her story is billed as “representing the millions of unheard voices of refugees who risk everything in a desperate search for a safe future.”

In 2016, Dunham was branded a “hypocrite” for criticising Hollywood’s lack of diversity despite writing a TV show that featured an all-white lead cast.

“We have a very serious problem,” she said, adding: “The idea that there aren’t enough diverse filmmakers or there aren’t enough woman filmmakers to give jobs to – it’s simply a fallacy. People need to take notice and give resources.”

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