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300: More Than a Movie for Many Iranians

cartoon

Cartoon by Afshin Sabouki from Project 300, an artistic response to 300, the movie.

The movie “300”, based on a Frank Miller comic book, has been both a big hit at the box office and a hot topic in Iran's media, big and small. In Zack Snyder's movie, 300 Spartans fight to the last man against Persian King Xerxes and his million man army.

Many Iranians were outraged about the movie. According to the daily paper Ayande No, the movie seeks to tell people that Iran, which is in the Axis of Evil now, has for long been the source of evil and modern Iranians’ ancestors are the ugly murderous dumb savages you see in ‘300’.” .” Warner Brothers, the film's producers, were quick to explain that the film is “a work of fiction, loosely based on a historical event.”

Iranian bloggers discussing the movie had diverse reactions.

Anger and Hope

Lego Fish created a “Google bomb” called Project 300 (“300 the movie”) to direct people who are searching for information about the movie to a site featuring the works of artists using the theme of ‘ancient Persia’. The blogger says “take advantage of the wave and carry the message [that Iranians are not what is portrayed in the movie].”

The blogger says that, despite what some have suggested, Project 300 is neither retaliatory nor confrontational. It is a collaborative endeavor aimed at showing the artistic side of Persians you normally don't see in the media, especially these days.

The Spirit of Man takes a historical look at “the whole of Spartan society,” arguing that “Sparta was a totalitarian and aristocrat community well over 20 centuries before the term was even invented.” He adds that “300 the movie will not be on the list of crappy movies I want to waste my money on and I encourage others not to spend their hard-earned money on that too.”

Mohammad Ali Abtahi says Hollywood created the film to humilate Iran's history. He adds that it is probably a reaction to statements by Iranian leaders like Ahmadinejad's speeches against the Holocaust. Abtahi adds, “but this movie can not have any influence on people in the world who know history” [Fa].

Kourosh Ziabari wishes to see more historical accuracy in movies:

I just want to ask that what happened if all the filmmakers, producers, writers and artists didn’t attempt to omit the historical realities and choose what they want among the pages of history? I want to ask that what happened if 300 the movie would sketch the real and trustworthy picture of Thermopylae war between Persia and Greece?

Much Ado About Nothing

Parsanevesht[Fa] says the movie gives a negative image of Iranians but it is not insulting. The blogger asks why we react so emotionaly, adding how it is possible to launch Google Bomb and petition three days before the movie comes to theaters?

Pouya, who actually did see the movie, writes:

I can see why so many Iranians are pissed off about it. The movie is racist and degrades Iranian history by showing ancient Iran as an empire of tyrants, sexists, slaves, and plunderers. It is, however, a fictional portrayal of an historic event.

What about real life?

Iranian Truth wonders if the protests inspired by the movie might be better focused elsewhere:

It’s pretty disappointing to see so many Iranians in an outrage against this movie when there’s so many more important and bigger issues out there, such as, lets see, a possible war on Iran which could cause thousands of deaths, the abduction of female activists in Iran, the continual deprivation of human rights in Iran and in the US.

The blogger goes on to make an interesting comparaison between different petitons signed by Iranians:

Only 293 people petitioned for the release of political prisoners in Iran.
4,083 people petitioned for the release of women activists who were recently jailed in Iran. 5,108 people have pushed to release Ahmed Batebi from jail, torture, and death
But of course 6,153 care that a movie based on a comic book demeans their Iranian pride.

Majid Zohari [Fa] says that the Greece's respect for ancient Persia is much more important than the Islamic Republic's respect for Iranian history. The blogger asks really who is humiliating Iranian national pride more.

Where are Iranian investors?

Azarmehr describes how a director wanted to make a movie about Iranian history but wasn't able to get any support from local investors.

Few years ago a young director by the name of Alexander Jovy wanted to make an epic movie about Cyrus the Great. Some of my Iranian readers may remember me interviewing Alexander on Azadi TV, outside the British Mueseum in London. The budget for the Cyrus movie was estimated at 50 Million Pounds. Two non-Iranian investors had each provided 20 Million Pounds towards the making of the film. Both investors wanted to show the spirit of tolerance and greatness in Cyrus. Had the film been made, it would have been a source of pride for all of us. Yet not one Iranian investor came forward to close the remaining £10M balance!

8 comments

  • بسم الله,
    ما هم که آدم نبودیم؟!

    این رو ببینید:
    http://www.masihm.com/Post-338.aspx

  • Common Sense

    Lets be realistic people………IT IS JUST A MOVIE.

    Im a big history buff. The theatrical way in which the Persians were potrayed in my opinion actually made them look more terrifying than the reality. Xeres defintitely wasnt a 17ft giant.

    First.. the truth is that the Persian army wasnt even filled with Iranians. The major portion of xeres army came from the conquered nations that were nothing but slave forces.

    Second…If the Iranians cant accept the fact that the babylonian rulers were hell bent on world conquest, killing all who stood in their way or opposed them …then too bad its a historical fact.

    Third if Xeres were alive today he would slaughter all of the Iranians because they worship Allah and the Prophet mohammed. Xeres killed and destoyed all who would not recognize him as a God King. He was tolerant and forgiving, even the Bible shows that, but only if one submitted to his God like persona. Actually historical records recorded that all the babylonian kings were like that.

    The Persian empire was a place of great wonder and beauty..but like all great empires..Egypt, Rome, Alexander..it was only made that way through military force. Anyone who resisted was killed. Thats a fact of all ancient warfare.

    Also the only reason xeres lost so many men was because most of his men except the immortals were very light infantry with little to no armour. And their weapons were not strong enough to pierce the Spartan heavy infantry armour setup in a phalnax manuever placed in such a strategic location.

    And to believe that hollywood sat around trying to figure out a way to discredit the Iranians, and poof… came up with this movie is ridiculous. It takes a minimum of 2-3 years for a movie to get approval for production another year or so for casting and resources.
    Then the time it actually takes to shoot the film. Again another thought based on the idea that the big bad west is out to get Iran. Alot of Iran’s problems are self generated. Due to the lack of a free press and media. It is no secret that the Iranians flood the public with anti-west propaganda that is totally false. But..you know the old saying..Tell a lie long enough and people will believe it.

    All these responses from iranians are emotional, knee jerk reactions.
    Please think before you lash out at something so unimportant like a movie that means nothing.

    This movie was for entertainment not historical accuracy.

    Yes the movie was grossly exaggerated ….
    BUT MAN IT WAS A REAL COOL MOVIE!!!!!!!

  • Bonb This

    It’s based off a comic book for Petes sake. Get a grip. People want to blast Hollywood, or blast the film itself. The film was true to the “Graphic Novel”, or “comic book,” if you will. I disagree with what has been posted about americans not understanding the facts. The History channel and Discovery channel have been running programs about Sparta for the past few months. At the end of the day the facts are that the Persian Army lost by land and by sea, even though they had a significantly larger army and navy.

    I agree with what has been posted about anti american films. I have seen a few of them. Those films are present day films attacking americans currently, not attacking american from the 1800’s. Even so, anti american films and even anti christian films (and there are many) may produce protest, but they never produce violence, distruction and murder. Can the same be said of protests against anti arab/muslim films, and the like?

    Americans and christians are lampooned, made fun of, ridiculed, etc. unceasingly in the media. We take it in stride and laugh at ourselves. How many Jesus skits have we seen on SNL? But no one dares mention mohammed, or Islma in parodys, skits or even media. Hell, Van Goh was murdered for his film. No one wants to go near Islam out of fear. That’s present day news. Isn’t there something barbaric about that?

  • Arnold

    Remember us, as simple an order as a king can give. Remember why we died. For he didn’t wish tribute or song. No monuments, no poems of war and valour. His wish was simple…remember us, he said to me. That was his hope. Should any free soul come across that place, in all the countless centuries yet to be, may all our voices whisper to you from the ageless stones: Go tell the Spartans, passer-by, that here by Spartan law we lie. So my king died, and my brothers died, barely a year ago. Long I pondered my king’s cryptic talk of victory. Time has proven him wise, for from free Greek to free Greek the word was spread that bold Leonidas and his 300, so far from home, laid down their lives, not just for Sparta, but for all Greece and the promise this country holds. Now, here on this ragged patch of earth called Plataea, Xerxes’ hordes face obliteration! Just there the barbarians huddle, sheer terror gripping tight their hearts with icy fingers, knowing full well what merciless horrors they suffered at the swords and spears of 300. Yet they stare now across the plain at 10,000 Spartans commanding 30,000 free Greeks! Haroo! The enemy outnumber us a paltry three to one! Good odds for any Greek. This day we rescue a world from mysticism and tyranny, and usher in a future brighter than anything we could imagine. Give thanks, men, to Leonidas and the brave 300! To victory!

  • While I agree wholly in the criticisms leveled at 300 where the stories of ancient events are concerned. Clearly HOW a people is portayed in a film can have a (frightening) effect on how others see the people who are portrayed. But where 300 is concerned, it all comes back to the comic book. The producers of the film preserved both Miller’s story and the look of his paintings, not history. What’s sad is less the movie, but rather that Miller himself wasn’t sensitive to the message that his pseudo-historical fantasy comic would have. I think had the original work had been culturally appropriate (at all) it would have been in the film. My point ultimately being that in making the story more correct historically, it would have not been “Frank Miller’s 300” anymore. It may be that the movie be better not made at all than to try and “fix”it. I enjoyed the visuals, I guess, but I winced (to put it mildly) with all my friends at the freaky devil goat-head thing. It was really awful. It’s just the type of thing that “middle america” uses in formulating opinion about other cultures. Shameful. So whattaya do if you’re a Frank Miller comic fan (think “Sin City” and you want to turn this other totally visually amazing comic into a film? In my opinion you ask Miller to write a different story or just shelve the idea. The harm of the film may outweigh the artistic merit of the film as “art.”

    Feel free to call me out if I’m way off base.

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