Iran's U.N. Mission Outraged at '300'

The Associated Press
Thursday, March 22, 2007; 8:17 PM

UNITED NATIONS -- Iran's U.N. Mission expressed outrage Thursday at the "deliberate distortions" of ancient Persia in the blockbuster movie "300" and said it was part of Western efforts to demonize Iran.

The movie is based on a comic-book fantasy version of the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. in which a force of 300 Spartans held off a massive Persian army at a mountain pass in Greece for three days. It has been No. 1 in the U.S. for the past two weeks and raked in more than $100 million after just one week in theaters.

"Indeed, the movie's distorted fabrications about the Persians cannot be isolated from the current concerted efforts by certain Western interest circles to systematically demonize the Iranian nation," a statement from the mission said.

The film "fails to convey a bare minimum truth about Iranian history," the statement said, denouncing the "crude demonization of Persians as the embodiment of evil, moral corruption."

The film touched a nerve in Iran even though it will probably never open there because of the government's restrictions on Western films. The cultural adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denounced it, state-run television ran several commentaries calling the film insulting and Iranian film directors have pointed to its historical inaccuracies.

Some American reviewers have also noted the political overtones of the West-against-Iran story line _ and the way Persians are depicted as decadent, sexually flamboyant and evil in contrast to the noble Greeks.

The mission's statement came amid a standoff between Iran and the U.N. Security Council over the Islamic country's nuclear program. The U.S. and its European allies fear the program is a cover for producing nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists it is only seeking an alternate source of energy. The council could vote within days to impose new sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.

Paul Cartledge, professor of Greek history at Cambridge University in England who consulted on the movie, told The Associated Press earlier this month that the film was good entertainment, though not "a documentary of what actually happened at Thermopylae" or of the situation in Greece and Persia at that time.

"The movie both suggests what is false _ that the Persian king was an outlandish giant with multiple piercings, etc. _ and suppresses what is true _ the Spartans were in fact fighting as the lead members of a Greek alliance," he said.

Cartledge also said the Persian Empire "was not a one-dimensional barbaric despotism but actually quite civilized and tolerant in many ways _ even if by no means well disposed to Greek-style democracy."

© 2007 The Associated Press