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Persona non grata
There will be no Oliver Stone biopic “Ahmadinejad,” no “Natural Born Mullahs.” This week, Iran denied a request by the counterculturalist-in-chief to direct a biographical film about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It seems that even Mr. Stone of the 2003 wet kiss to Fidel Castro “Comandante” is too much the “Great Satan” for this regime.
“It is right that this person is considered part of the opposition in the U.S., but opposition in the U.S. is still a part of the Great Satan,” a government spokesman told the Iranian Fars news agency.
If there’s a lesson here, it’s that a Westerner’s correct politics do not buy indulgence from this awful regime. That would be the same lesson which the more tragic case of Haleh Esfandiari demonstrates. The 67-year-old Mrs. Esfandiari, director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and one of Washington’s leading advocates of engagement with Iran, currently languishes in the notorious Evin Prison on phony espionage charges. She was arrested two months ago while visiting her 93-year-old mother in Iran. Several other Westerners in the country on legitimate business were also arrested, proving that this regime swallows even those likeliest to be its friends. It is all the more tragic given that Mrs. Esfandiari is a person with a longstanding record of friendship with the Iranian people and a record of advocacy on their behalf.
What Mr. Stone was thinking is anybody’s guess, especially after last year’s outstanding and apolitical film “World Trade Center.” It would have been difficult to play that story any straighter than Mr. Stone did, and its refusal to inject left-wing politics into the story, as in “JFK” or other Stone works, was as welcome as it was unexpected.
Forced to guess, we wouldn’t expect much. Without even considering Mr. Stone’s history of misguided romance for various and sundry thugs and Third World radicals, it is difficult to imagine that Iranian officials would tolerate much in the way of an interviewer’s give-and-take, even of the fawning sort which Mr. Stone once ladled to Fidel Castro.
Here’s an idea that could at least give Mr. Stone a shot at his Ahmadinejad biopic while doing some good for the rest of us. The Iranian regime will reportedly reconsider its decision if and when President Bush allows an Iranian crew to shadow him for a similar movie. The White House should call this bluff. To show that Tehran is so committed to demonizing the United States that it cannot even let in an American filmmaker, it would be well worth it.
By Emily Miller
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