Iran accuses Hollywood of 'psychological warfare'
Robert Tait in Tehran
Wednesday March 14, 2007
President Ahmadinejad's spokesman branded the film 'an insult to Iran'. Photograph: Warner Bros
Hollywood is already firmly established as a source of cultural decadence in Iran's pantheon of hated western symbols.
But now the country's Islamic leadership has accused it of "psychological warfare" over its depiction of the battle between the Greeks and Persians at Thermopylae in 480BC, regarded as a key event in the birth of western democracy by some historians.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government has joined MPs, bloggers and local media in denouncing the newly-released Warner Brothers epic, 300, as a calculated attempt to demonise Iran at a time of intensifying US pressure over the country's nuclear programme.
Mr Ahmadinejad's spokesman branded the film "an insult to Iran" while four MPs have urged the foreign ministry to pressure other Muslim countries to ban it.
The film, directed by Zack Snyder and based on a novel by Frank Miller, grossed nearly £40m in ticket sales in three days after opening in north American cinemas last week. It portrays the heroic endeavours of 300 Spartans, under King Leonidas, who are shown resisting an invading force of 120,000 Persian troops led by Emperor Xerxes.
The plot depicts the tiny Spartan force repeatedly outmanoeuvring the invaders and being defeated after a three-day stand-off only through treachery. Iranians complain that it represents them as savage, murderous and warmongering.
The film's availability in Iran has been limited so far to pirate DVDs, but that has not stopped an outpouring of official condemnation.
The government spokesman, Gholamhossein Elham, described the film as "cultural intrusion" and an attack on Iran's ancient civilisation. "Such a fabrication of culture and insult to people is not acceptable by any nation or government," he told reporters. "[Iran] considers it as hostile behaviour which is the result of cultural and psychological warfare."
The reformist newspaper, Ayandehno, accused the makers of trying to set international opinion against Iran to fit President George Bush's description of the country as belonging to an "axis of evil".
"In the film Iranians are considered to be monsters devoid of any culture, humanity and wisdom who know nothing except attacking other lands, threatening peace and killing human beings. There is no option other than to confront, fight and destroy this wicked tribe so that the world can be saved from this axis of evil," the paper's film critic wrote.
It is not the first Hollywood production to cause upset in Iran. There was widespread anger over the favourable portrayal of Alexander the Great in the 2004 film, Alexander. The Macedonian king is reviled in Iranian culture for destroying the seat of Persian imperial greatness at Persepolis after defeating Emperor Darius III in 330BC.
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