'Degree' airing on state television

Iranian state television is tackling the Holocaust head on with one of its bigger-budget skeins.

“A Zero Degree Turn” follows the unlikely friendship that occurs between two students, an Iranian boy and a Jewish girl, in Europe against the backdrop of WWII. While skein, which preemed in mid-April, is still only seven episodes into its 22-episode run — the Nazis have just invaded France at this point — its political message is already starting to come through.

“Zero Degree” helmer Hassan Fathi has tried to avoid the anti-Semitic ramblings of Iranian prexy Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who has denied the Holocaust and called for the destruction of Israel on numerous occasions, in favor of a more humanist message about how well Iran’s Jewish citizens were treated by their hosts. Skein draws a stark contrast with treatment meted out to Europe’s Jewish population during the same period.

“According to historical documents through the period of the birth of fascism in Europe and the Nazi policy of destroying lives of Jewish people, Iranian people have played an important role in saving the lives of hundreds of Jews from this Nazi hell,” Fathi told Daily Variety. “This issue is one of the most important and basic subjects of this series and indicates that Iranians, typically, believe in the right of racial equality for all people. This comes out of their religious and national beliefs.”

The lavish series, with a budget in the low seven figures, is one of the costliest ever put on by Iranian state television. “Zero Degree” is going out weekly in primetime on the country’s flagship pubcaster Channel 1. Its producers are hoping to sell “Zero Degree” to territories beyond Iran once its local run is completed.

So far, however, it’s been the fancy settings — locations have included Budapest and Paris — rather than the touchy politics that have been piquing the interest of local auds.

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