TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran denounced Hollywood’s latest blockbuster film, depicting the 480 B.C. battle between the Persian army and a band of Greeks, as “hostile behavior which is the result of cultural and psychological warfare.”
Last week’s North American opening of “300,” while Tehran is embroiled in a standoff with Western nations over its nuclear program, led Iran and its film fans to see the movie as a Western effort to vilify their nation through history.
The film sold an estimated $70 million worth of tickets in its first three days, setting a new record for a March release, the film’s distributor Warner Bros. Pictures said on Sunday.
But Iranians were clearly offended at the way their ancestors were portrayed in the film, inspired by the tale of 300 Spartans under King Leonidas who held out at Thermopylae against a Persian invasion led by Xerxes in 480 B.C.
The government, lawmakers and Iranian Web logs (blogs) denounced the movie, which depicts the huge Persian army as ruthless but repeatedly outsmarted by the Greeks who are only defeated in the end by treachery.
Even though the film by U.S. director Zack Snyder has only just hit theatres in the United States, poor quality pirated copies are already available in the Iranian capital.
Government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham branded it an insult against Iran, where the first Persian empire emerged to become the world’s most powerful in the sixth century B.C. before it was conquered by Alexander the Great two centuries later.
“Not only would no nation or government accept this...but it would also consider it as hostile behavior which is the result of cultural and psychological warfare,” he told a regular press briefing on Tuesday.
Four MPs urged Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar-Harandi to ask other Muslim countries not to show “this anti-Iranian Hollywood movie,” ISNA news agency said.
Iranians take great pride in their history and the empire they founded, and any perceived slight against that heritage often sparks criticism across the political and social spectrum.
An Iranian circulated a petition against the film on the Internet, saying the film was both “fraudulent and distorted.”
“It is a proven scholarly fact that the Persian Empire in 480 B.C. was the most magnificent and civilized empire,” the protest letter to the filmmakers said.
Western historians have often said the battle was the first major conflict between the East and the ancient Greek city states, seen as the cradle for Western values.
In contrast to the angry reaction in Iran, “300” has earned largely positive reviews in North America, despite or because of its decapitations and battlefield carnage.