‘Hollywood likes to paint us in a bad light’

In Iran 300 has triggered bewilderment and anger. Just off Tehran’s central Haft-e Tir Square, customers cram into a shop selling bootleg DVDs to flip through pirated action and art-house films while an employee keeps a lookout on the street for approaching police. “Hollywood likes to paint us in a bad light,” said a middle-aged customer who was looking to buy 300. “They like to show Iranians in a racist way.”

The film is in great demand but has yet to arrive. The shop’s owner, Siavash, is unwilling to give his full name because of the danger that his shop will be shut for selling films that have not passed the Islamic Republic’s stringent morality laws.

“We don’t have a problem with history, with the fact that the Greeks beat us at Thermo-pylae,” adds Siavash. “What we have a problem with is the ways in which the Americans like to show us. We don’t have a problem with the Greeks.”

“Hollywood must always have a good and bad guy – but why is it that in historical films like Oliver Stone’s Alexander, the Persians are the baddies and the Greeks the goodies?” Siavash asks.

None of Iran’s 250 cinemas is scheduled to show the film. Few foreign films are distributed in cinemas, most of which show an almost exclusive diet of light-hearted Iranian comedies and romantic dramas. The occasional Western film tends to be in accord with the regime’s antiBritish, antiUS and antiIsraeli ideology and is inelegantly censored to remove intimate scenes.

Javad Shamqadri, an adviser to President Ahmadinejad, set the tone for the criticism this week when he condemned what he called a “deviation of history” and slammed the portrayal of Persians as “ugly and violent creatures rather than human beings”.


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