Iranian film on Sadat stirs controversy

'Assassination of a Pharaoh' angers Egyptians

DUBAI — An Iranian film about the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat has earned the ire of the slain politico’s family and much of the Iranian film biz.

“Assassination of a Pharaoh,” which has already aired on Iranian TV, labels Sadat a “traitor” for signing the 1979 peace deal with Israel, which followed from the 1978 Camp David peace accords brokered by U.S. President Jimmy Carter. It also celebrates his killer, Khaled Istambouli, as a martyr.

Istambouli, a member of Egypt’s Islamist Jamaa Al-Islamiya militant group, shot the Egyptian president in 1981 during a military parade.

Anwar Sadat’s family has threatened to sue the pic’s producers for defamation, while many Egyptian film execs have rallied to decry the political motives behind the project.

Even the current leadership of the Jamaa Al-Islamiya issued a statement criticizing the film, saying that while Istambouli “was a good young man who thought he was doing a good thing, the Jamaa now believes that if it were possible to turn back time, it would never have happened. Sadat was the only president who gave the Islamic movements free range, but the movement did not make good use of that freedom.”

The pic is a setback for attempts to redress the tense relationship between Egypt and Iran. The two countries have had no diplomatic relations since 1980, following Egypt’s peace deal with Israel and the Egyptian government’s offer of refuge to the Shah of Iran, who was deposed in 1979 following the Iranian revolution and ascent to power of Ayatollah Khomeini.

For many years a Tehran street bore the name of Istambouli until it was finally rechristened Intifada Street in an attempt to appease Egyptian objections. In January this year, the two countries appeared to be edging toward restoring relations following a landmark phone call between Egyptian prexy Hosni Mubarak and Iranian prexy Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

“Assassination of a Pharaoh,” however, appears to have tanked any official rapprochement between the two countries for the time being.

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