Iran General NewsHollywood film accused of insulting Iran

Hollywood film accused of insulting Iran

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ImageThe Guardian: To its director, cast and seasoned critics, it is a tale of sporting redemption redolent of the Rocky Balboa character played by Sylvester Stallone – an ageing wrestler down on his luck staging an against-the-odds comeback for one last stirring victory.

The Guardian

Robert Tait

ImageTo its director, cast and seasoned critics, it is a tale of sporting redemption redolent of the Rocky Balboa character played by Sylvester Stallone – an ageing wrestler down on his luck staging an against-the-odds comeback for one last stirring victory.

But for Iran's notoriously touchy media, it is the latest in a long line of perceived insults and anti-Iranian prejudice suffered at the hands of Hollywood.

The new target in Iran's long-running grievance about its negative portrayal in popular western cinema is, The Wrestler, a film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Mickey Rourke, due for release in the US on December 17.

Newspapers and websites have alerted readers to the "anti-Iranian film" by highlighting a scene in which Rourke's character, Randy "the Ram" Robinson, violently breaks a pole bearing an Iranian flag across his knee, after his opponent tries to use it to put him in a stranglehold.

Perhaps to avoid offending Iran's clerical rulers, no mention has been made of the screen name of Rourke's antagonist, the Ayatollah, played by Ernest Miller.

But the Miller character's wrestling attire, a skimpy leotard in the pattern of an Iranian flag with the alef character – representing the first letter of the word Allah – emblazoned front and back on his loins, has been condemned by Borna News, a state-run website.

The pole-breaking scene occurs against the explicitly nationalistic backdrop of an animated crowd chanting, "USA, USA". It is intended to represent the final triumph for Rourke's character, who comes out of retirement following a heart attack for one last confrontation with the Ayatollah, a rival from his wrestling heyday.

While there is virtually no chance of The Wrestler being given official screening permission in Iran, many Iranians have become familiar with it through promotional trailers shown on broadcaster, Voice of America's Persian-language satellite television channel.

The political undercurrents have gone unnoticed by western reviewers, some of whom have hailed the production – which won the golden lion award at this year's Venice film festival – as marking a return to form for Rourke, who is also seen striking up a love affair with a stripper.

But Farda, a fundamentalist website, said it contained anti-Iranian sentiments similar to those allegedly exhibited in the film, The Stoning of Soraya M, released this year about a woman stoned to death under Iran's sharia legal code, after being convicted of adultery.

Last year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government accused Hollywood of "psychological warfare" over the depiction of Iranians in 300, a commercially successful film distributed by Warner Brothers about the battle between Greeks and Persians, at Thermopylae in 480BC. Iran's representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, filed a complaint accusing the film of racial stereotyping.

Other Hollywood productions to have provoked outrage include the 2004 film, Alexander, directed by Oliver Stone, which was slammed for its sympathetic depiction of Alexander the Great, a figure reviled by many Iranians for the destruction of Persepolis, the seat of Persian imperial greatness, after his defeat of Emperor Darius III in 330 BC.

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