Controversy surrounding Oliver Stone’s proposal to Iranian president

  Some Iranian news agencies carried a report on June 29, 2007, that took the Iranian cinema by total surprise. They quoted Alireza Sajjadpour, an Iranian filmmaker and secretary of the Islamic Board of Artists who was also close to the new government and was among supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during presidential polls, as saying that “Oliver Stone, the famous American director, was planning to visit Iran to make a film about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” He added, however, that the Iranian filmmakers were better placed to do the job because of their better grasp of Iran’s realities and noted that in view of the approach taken by Stone in Hollywood, his decision should be considered from every possible angle. Sajjadpour stated that Javad Shamaqdari, president’s advisor on arts and an Iranian filmmaker, would examine Stone’s request. Sajjadpour, however, was optimistic and noted that in view of Stone’s track record in making films about politicians, some of which, like Comandante, were realistic and acceptable,  his decision for making a film about Ahmadinejad should be taken as a positive development. “If he intended to make an unrealistic film about Ahmadinejad, he would be risking his credit, because popularity of Ahmadinejad has been rising despite all negative propaganda. Stone is a famous filmmaker who is known as a director who has been critical of US policies in Vietnam War. On the other hand, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a charismatic personality who has drawn the attention of people and elites and his popularity as an Iranian as well as a revolutionary Muslim, transcends the borders of Iran and the Islamic world. Therefore, we welcome Stone’s decision…. If Stone made a realistic film, this would help us to expand our positive publicity,” he said.
  The news was so sensational that many people found it hard to believe. Some newswires even reported that Oliver Stone had denied it. For example, Fox News quoted Stone as saying during an interview that he had no motivation to make a film about Ahmadinejad and if he wanted to do so, he would make one about Ahmadinejad’s humanistic ideas. As a result, Iranian officials published a letter which had been written by Stone's manager Mrs. Michelle Michelson, on May 24, 2007. The letter read in part: “This letter will serve as a confirmation of my interest to travel to Iran for purpose of filming a documentary on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I would estimate bringing there five assistants to help, including technicians. I would like to keep this as quiet and low key as possible.”
  Sajjadpour, however, was not the sole filmmaker close to the government to express his opinion about this. The most important opinion came from Javad Shamaqdari. Shamaqdari, who is currently arts advisor to the Iranian president and has made his promotional film during election hustings, is a fundamentalist director who has already made Sand Storm about debacle of the American forces who had attacked Iran, due to a sudden sand storm in deserts near Tabas city back in 1979. Shamaqdari used stronger words than Sajjadpour and while stressing that the Iranian president was too busy, announced that only one filmmaker would be allowed to make such a film. Shamaqdari even implied as a precondition that Stone should clear the way for an Iranian filmmaker to make a film about President Bush, but he did not explain how Stone was supposed to do that.

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