Shangari calls film 'psychological warfare'

Warner Bros.’ “300” is being greeted in Iran with about as much warmth as a U.N. weapons inspector.

While U.S. auds see the film as a comicbook come to life — replete with hyperstylized action and broadly drawn heroes and villains — it has a deeper resonance in the Mideast, where it’s seen as a distorted view of very real events.

“Hollywood declares war on Iranians,” exclaimed a headline in Iranian daily Ayandeh-No.

Javad Shangari, a cultural adviser to Iranian prexy Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, attacked the film as being “part of a comprehensive U.S. psychological warfare aimed at Iranian culture.”

While the pic is unlikely to be released theatrically in Iran, pirated DVDs already are circulating on the black market.

“Everyone is starting to react. The DVD is already very available, and people are quite angry,” one Tehran-based producer said.

An online petition addressed to Warner has tallied 35,000 signatures. The petition, set up by Canada-based archaeologist Hamed Vahdati Nasab, protests Warner’s “irresponsible, unethical and unscientific actions … while announcing our disgust at such a heresy, we demand an immediate historical review and quick apology from the responsible people.”

Director Zack Snyder and the film’s producers have emphasized that the film is based on the Frank Miller graphic novel and was never intended to be an accurate historical representation.

But that’s done little to assuage concerns by those who see the film’s archetypes as Western stereotypes.

Nasab told Daily Variety, “What would people say if they made a film about Martin Luther King (Jr.), showed him as a monster, and tried to defend it as a fiction? You can’t do that. It’s unethical. This is a national matter for all Iranians.”

Iranians are descendants of Persians. The film, which depicts the 480 B.C. Battle of Thermopylae between 300 Spartan soldiers and an invading Persian army, shows them as the villains. The Persian emperor at the time, Xerxes, was descended from Cyrus, who is revered in Iran for having written the first declaration of human rights.

Pic arrives at a time of heightened political tension over the West’s desire to rein in Iran’s nuclear energy program. While the hard-line government in Tehran has insisted its program will be used solely for peaceful purposes, many outside the country suspect the end goal is to obtain nuclear weapons.

Otherwise, the film, with its stylized depictions of violence, seems unlikely to cause any problems in the Mideast. Execs at Shooting Stars, the UAE-based distrib repping “300” across the Arab world, confirmed that the pic would likely clear censors across the region.

“People are seeing it as an entertainment here,” Shooting Star’s Roy Chacra said.

A Warner Bros. spokesman said: “The film ‘300’ is a work of fiction inspired by the Frank Miller graphic novel and loosely based on an historical event. The studio developed this film purely as a fictional work with the sole purpose of entertaining audiences; it is not meant to disparage an ethnicity or culture or make any sort of political statement.”

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