Iran to sue Hollywood for fear-mongering with 'Argo'

This is not the first time Iranian officials have complained about the portrayal of Iran in Hollywood cinema.

Claire Folger/Warner Bros./AP/File
This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Bryan Cranston (l.) as Jack O’Donnell and Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in 'Argo,' a rescue thriller about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.

Iran announced today that it will sue Hollywood for creating films the Islamic Republic alleges intentionally “propagate fear of Iran throughout the world,” according to state media reports. 

Citing director Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning film “Argo” as “the most recent example of various fear-mongering tactics” used by Hollywood, the semi-official Fars News Agency said French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, widely known for defending Venezuelan-born terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (“Carlos the Jackal”), is in Tehran for talks with Iranian government officials to determine where and how a lawsuit should be filed. 

“These people [in Hollywood] are using films to propagate global panic about Iran,” Fars cites Ms. Coutant-Peyre as saying.  “The act [of the lawsuit] itself is valuable,” added Ms. Coutant-Peyre, “because it can stir interest and discussion among the peoples of the world, until they can discern between what is the truth and what are lies about Iran, and think about them.  The dialogue created by Hollywood [about Iran] can’t be one-sided."

It is unclear who will specifically be named in Iran's lawsuit.  Ms. Coutant-Peyre said she has prepared a case and will provide more details at a press conference Wednesday, Fars reports.

Argo” was privately screened in downtown Tehran on Monday as part of a state-organized conference on “Hollywood Deceit," according to state media reports. 

Based on a true story about how the CIA, with the help of Canadian officials, smuggled six American diplomats out of Iran after the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy, “Argo” was first screened at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 7, the same day Canada closed its embassy in Tehran and expelled Iran’s diplomats from the Canadian capital, Ottawa

“Perhaps it was a coincidence,” wrote independent film critic Meysam Karimi for the Tehran-based Moviemag website in September. “But for [the embassy closure] to take place during the Toronto Film Festival, right when this film was being screened, somewhat undermines the theory that this happened by accident.” 

“Argo” went on to win three Academy Awards at this year's Oscars ceremony, including the top prize for Best Picture, which was presented via live telecast by First Lady Michelle Obama.  

Pirated copies of Hollywood films, including “Argo,” are widely available to the Iranian public. They can typically purchase films even before their formal debut in US theaters. Since the film’s release, Iranian state media reports have dismissed the film as anti-Iranian and anti-Islamic “propaganda.” 

Private movie critics inside Iran, while acknowledging Ben Affleck’s sophisticated directorial skills, have decried some of the film’s historical inaccuracies and claimed the film portrays Iranians as stereotypically backward and violent. 

This is not the first time Iranian officials have complained about the portrayal of Iran in Hollywood cinema.

In 2009, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cultural adviser demanded that a group of US filmmakers and actors visiting Tehran, including Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Sid Ganis, actress Annette Bening, and former chairman of Universal Pictures Tom Pollock, among others, apologize on behalf of Hollywood for creating “insulting” films such as “300,” an animated film about the battle between Greeks and Persians at Thermopylae in 480 BC, which was distributed by Warner Brothers.

Iran has also complained about the 1991 film “Not Without My Daughter" and the 2008 film “The Wrestler,” in which American actor Mickey Rourke fights a character named "The Ayatollah" who tries to choke him with an Iranian flag

Follow Roshanak on Twitter at @RoshanakT

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