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Last Updated: Friday, 16 March 2007, 11:08 GMT
Iranian anger at Hollywood 'assault'
By Majid Joneidi
BBC News, Washington

Portrayal of Xerxes in the film 300, courtesy of Warner Brothers
The film is a travesty of ancient Persian civilization, critics say

The Iranian community in the US and Canada is very keen on e-petitions as a form of protest.

The latest issue to grip Iranian expatriates is the Hollywood blockbuster 300. According to the protesters, it projects an "irresponsible" and "distorted" image of ancient Persia.

The film, which has broken US box office records, is a special effects-laden depiction of a battle in which a small Spartan army resisted a Persian invasion.

It is based on Frank Miller's epic graphic novel about the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC.

The film shows the Spartan king and his army of 300 - white, muscular soldiers - strongly resisting Xerxes and his savage Persian army of hundreds of thousands.

Loud opposition

The film has stirred controversy among Iranians across the world, but it is the expatriate community in North America that have been the loudest voice opposing an "assault on its culture and tradition".

Iranian bloggers started their campaign against the film a week ahead of its opening.

Not only does it give the wrong outcomes to battles, it grossly misrepresents the Persians and their civilization
Omid Memarian

Bloggers have taken offence at the way in which the Persians have been depicted in the film and the way the battle of Thermopylae has been narrated.

Award winning Iranian blogger and journalist Omid Memarian has been among these voices. He is worried about what he sees as historical discrepancies in the film.

"Not only does it give the wrong outcomes to battles, it grossly misrepresents the Persians and their civilization.

Spartan warrior fights Persian foes in the film 300, courtesy of Warner Brothers
Some see a hidden anti-Iranian agenda in the film
"It is unfortunate that very few curriculums in the US cover world history and it is very easy to misdirect the general public on historical facts."

Mr Memarian is also concerned about the film's balance.

"Let's not forget that Cyrus the Great, Xerxes's grandfather, drafted the first declaration of human rights in 539 BC, freeing hundreds of thousands of Jews from Babylonian slavery."

Iranian officials have joined the angry protests and some are seeing it as part of a wider campaign against Iran.

Javad Shamaqdari, a cultural advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said it was "plundering Iran's historic past and insulting this civilization".

He branded the film "psychological warfare" against Tehran and its people.

A daily Iranian newspaper, Ayandeh-No, recently carried the headline "Hollywood declares war on Iranians".

Image problems

Omid Memarian is not surprised at the reaction to the film due to what he calls "skewed media coverage on Iran and anti-Iranian rhetoric which has escalated in the US".

Warner Brothers, the film's producers, has been quick to explain that "the film [is] a work of fiction, loosely based on an historical event".

Scene from 300, courtesy of Warner Brothers
The makers say 300 is a work of fiction, not to be taken seriously
A statement by the company said: "The studio developed this film purely as a fictional work with the sole purpose of entertaining audiences; it is not meant to disparage an ethnicity or culture or make any sort of political statement."

Some bloggers and commentators have opposed the petition against 300 on the grounds that there are bigger battles to fight - such as opposing what is seen as the increasing threat of military action against Iran.

Salman Jariri, a Farsi blogger, published an open letter addressed to the protestors.

"The actions of leaders of third world countries has a more destructive effect on the westerners' perception of these countries than Hollywood productions," he said.


One Iranian blogger in Canada has an alternative to the petition.

Pendar Yousefi, who blogs from Toronto, is "Google-bombing" the film.

His "bomb" aims to divert internet traffic searching for 300 to a web site that introduces the various aspects of Iranian culture through art.

Mr Yousefi, who is upset with the way ancient Persians have been depicted in 300, has called on Iranian cartoonists and artists to send him work that will help educate people about the Persian empire.

A number of artists have obliged and some 600 Iranian blogs and websites have established permanent links to Mr Yousefi's site.

Iran condemns Hollywood war epic
13 Mar 07 |  Entertainment

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