Iranian official demands apology from visiting Hollywood delegation

Mostaghim is a special correspondent.

A delegation of Hollywood actors and producers that arrived in Tehran over the weekend to meet with their counterparts has also been met by sharp government criticism.

A top Iranian cultural official Sunday demanded that the group from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, including academy President Sid Ganis and film stars Annette Bening and Alfre Woodard, apologize for Hollywood’s “insults and libel” against the Islamic Republic.

Some Iranians were irked by the depiction of ancient Persians in the film “300" as well as actor Mickey Rourke ripping up an Iranian flag during a scene in “The Wrestler.”

Javad Shamaqdari, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cultural advisor, said an apology should be made before the group was allowed any meeting with ranking officials.

Iranian political analyst Saeed Leylaz downplayed Shamaqdari’s comments in an interview with the Associated Press, saying that they must have been aimed for domestic consumption because the delegation’s visit almost certainly was approved by the government.


“It is not likely any American, especially Hollywood people, could visit Iran without Iranian government approval,” Leylaz said.

The group held a series of workshops and meetings over the weekend with Iranian movie industry figures organized through Tehran’s House of Cinema, a hangout for actors and directors.

Ganis, a producer of the critically acclaimed 2006 film “Akeelah and the Bee,” said in an interview that the group was here simply “to communicate with our fellow filmmakers . . . an exchange of ideas relating to the making and distributing of movies.”

“It’s part of the program we have at the academy,” said Ganis, “that took us to Vietnam last year, and we’re here now too . . . to meet, talk to, express, visit with, understand the problems of Iranian filmmakers, and express to them universal problems of filmmaking and just generally exchange ideas.”

Ganis said he had learned “that a filmmaker is a filmmaker is a filmmaker is a filmmaker, with similar needs, similar problems, the same artistic intention, the same difficulty getting the ball rolling.”