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300: More Than a Movie for Many Iranians

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Iran, Digital Activism, Economics & Business, Film, History, Migration & Immigration


Cartoon by Afshin Sabouki [1] from Project 300, an artistic response to 300, the movie.

The movie “300” [2], based on a Frank Miller [3] 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’.” [4].” Warner Brothers, the film's producers, were quick to explain that the film is “a work of fiction, loosely based on a historical event [5].”

Iranian bloggers discussing the movie had diverse reactions.

Anger and Hope

Lego Fish [6] created a “Google bomb [7]” called Project 300 [8] (“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 [9] 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 [10]” [Fa].

Kourosh Ziabari [11] 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 [12][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 [13], 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 [14] 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 [15] [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 [16] 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 [17]. 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!