A year and a half ago, giddy and hopeful in the wake of Obama’s inauguration, an unofficial but self-important delegation from Hollywood’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (including actresses Annette Bening and Alfre Woodard, among others), set out for Iran as part of a “cultural exchange.”
Hard to fathom how America was supposed to benefit from the exchange, but cultural advisor Javad Shamaghdari told the Hollywood reps exactly what Iran wanted: “We will believe Obama’s policy of change when we see change in Hollywood too.” In other words, no more movies critical of Islam or Iran. That’s not all Shamaghdari demanded:
If Hollywood wants to correct its behavior towards Iranian people and Islamic culture then they have to officially apologize.
So Hollywood infidels are expected to publicly acknowledge and embrace their dhimmi status. Most Hollywood infidels would be right onboard with that. But not the following filmmakers.
We in the West usually take movies for granted and accord them little more significance than mere entertainment. But our Islamic enemies, like the Communists and Nazis before them, fully recognize the cultural power of cinema and work hard to control it. Movies, especially of the Western variety, are often banned as un-Islamic in sharia-controlled areas, especially ones that flaunt sexual immodesty (Sex and the City), homosexuality (even the merely metrosexual Zoolander), or the depiction of drug use.
That doesn’t mean that such movies don’t circulate underground; in very Westernized Iran, for example, the mullahs do their best to keep a lid on the populace’s preference for American cultural decadence, but pirated DVDs are eagerly consumed by viewers privately.
What follows is a mostly chronological list of ten movies that for various reasons particularly offended Islamic values or regimes in the Middle East, especially Iran, which takes any opportunity to spew blustery propaganda about our warmongering, cultural aggression. With the exception of the Oscar-nominated French-Iranian film Persepolis, which I chose because Iran rated it as “more dangerous” than 300, I limited my selections to well-known Hollywood feature films, although Iran’s Ahmadinejad banned all foreign films in late 2005 and even many from Iranian filmmakers.
10) Not Without My Daughter
1991’s Not Without My Daughter, starring Sally Field and Alfred Molina, is a movie that probably no studio exec would dare “greenlight” today, thanks to a stultifying Hollywood environment of political correctness. Released only a few days before the Gulf War began, and based on one of the two “most hated” books in Iran (the other being Salman Rushdie’s infamously blasphemous The Satanic Verses), it depicts the daring real-life escape of American citizen Betty Mahmoody and her daughter from Iran.
Mahmoody was being kept a virtual prisoner by her husband, who beat and threatened her, and by his strictly devout family, who pressured her to conform to the life of a submissive Muslim wife. Though some Iranian characters in the film were treated sympathetically, Not Without My Daughter earned a ban from the Iranian leadership for embarrassing the mullahs and for exposing their oppression and the grim reality of life for women under sharia law.
9) The Matrix Reloaded
The Matrix Reloaded was banned in Egypt in 2003 by a 15-member censor committee made up of film critics, professors, writers and psychologists. The committee said that
Despite the high technology and fabulous effects of the movie, it explicitly handles the issue of existence and creation, which are related to the three divine religions, which we all respect and believe in. The movie tackles the issue of the creator and his creations, searching the origin of creation and the issue of compulsion and free will. Such religious issues, raised in previous times, caused crises.
But it wasn’t just the alternative concepts of divinity and free will that made the censors uncomfortable. Violence in the film also played a role:
Screening the movie may cause troubles and harm social peace.
The first Matrix was shown in Egypt but some claimed it promoted Zionism. An Egyptian movie critic said
The press launched a campaign to stop showing the movie, saying that it reflects Zionist ideas, and promotes Jewish and Zionist beliefs. That is why they are very cautious, to avoid any criticism this [time].
Ah, Jewish and Zionist beliefs. Can’t have those floating around out there in society, causing troubles and harming the social peace.
Oliver Stone’s 2004 epic about the life of Alexander the Great may not have set the box office on fire, but it certainly inflamed opinions in Iran because of its depiction of the embarrassing historical truth that the young conqueror, played by Colin Farrell with a distractingly Farah Fawcett-inspired hairstyle, decimated the Persian army under Darius III and destroyed the royal palace in Persepolis in 330 B.C., effectively ending the Persian Empire.
It didn’t help that the movie left little to the imagination about Alexander’s relationship with his boyhood companion Hephaistion, played by Jared Leto. As everyone knows since his appearance at Columbia University in 2007, President Ahmadinejad has asserted that such relationships don’t exist in Iran, and banning movies like Alexander will help keep things that way. That, and continuing to hang gay people.
“Hollywood declares war on Iranians,” blared a Tehran newspaper headline upon the 2007 release of 300, the movie version of the graphic novel rendering of the famous last stand of a small but fearless Spartan force against waves of Persians, who are depicted as decadent, arrogant, and imperialistic – the same charges Ahmadinejad and the mullahs level at the U.S. today.
Cultural adviser Javad Shamghadri said of 300 that America was out to “humiliate” Iran, “reverse historical reality” and “provoke American soldiers and warmongers” against Iran.
The film depicts Iranians as demons, without culture, feeling or humanity, who think of nothing except attacking other nations and killing people.
In other words, much like President Ahmadinejad depicts Jews and Americans. One newspaper wrote,
It is a new effort to slander the Iranian people and civilization before world public opinion at a time of increasing American threats against Iran.
The accusation that 300 insults Persian heritage is ironic considering that since the 1979 Islamic revolution, the Iranian clerical leadership has done its level best to eradicate that same pre-Islamic Persian heritage; but then, nobody does irony like radical Muslims.
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