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Film Business Could Have Positive Impact on Perception of Iran

Seeing Iran and the West engaging in back-and-forth diplomacy after years of sanctions and threats, John Marks, president of Washington-based NGO Search for Common Ground, long active in back-channel U.S.-Iran cultural diplomacy, believes that art can affect the political dialogue.

“Films can have a real impact in creating a climate in which the (nuclear) negotiations are more likely to be successful,” he says. “American movies and movie stars have a cachet in Iran that most of us (in the diplomatic community) don’t have; if Steven Spielberg wanted to lead an initiative, the Iranians would certainly welcome it.”

Indeed, the U.S. is the world’s top international market for Iranian films — though sanctions remain a major obstacle to distribution deals with the West.

Playing off this East-West give-and-take, popular Iranian comic Reza Attaran, in his Fajr-screened comedy “Red Carpet,” also invokes Spielberg.

In the pic, which shot during the Cannes film fest last year, a small-time actor (Attaran) hits the Croisette in an attempt to meet the Hollywood icon, who was serving as jury prexy, hoping his idol will help catapult him to stardom.

In one scene, Attaran’s character tries to strike up a conversation with a French girl. When she hears he’s from Iran, her response — “Bombe atomique!” — plays on just how far detente still has to go.

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