Iran Attacks "Hollywoodism"; Why They're Right, and Wrong

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by Anthony Kaufman
February 6, 2013 10:59 AM
4 Comments
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In the midst of Iran's prestigious 31st Fajr International Film Festival, which recently awarded its top prize to Iranian filmmaker Behnam Behzadi's family drama “The Rule of Accident,” an unfortunate parallel event is being conducted called "Hollywoodism and Cinema," which, by all accounts, is conservative Islamic propaganda aimed at demonizing Jews, Hollywood and Jewish Hollywood. The conference is making news on a number of fronts: the Western Media loves to highlight stories that show off Iran's more wacky ideologues; and there are also unsubstantiated reports that Malcolm Shabazz, Malcolm X's grandson, was arrested by the FBI on his way to Tehran to attend the conference. (Can some crime reporter please follow up on this?)

It's a shame that Fajr, an esteemed cinema event which has heralded the work of important Iranian filmmakers, such as Ashgar Farhadi ("A Separation") and Majid Majidi ("Song of Sparrows"), hasn't distanced itself more from the conference, which according to an announcement on Fajr's wesbite, is set to concentrate on examining the production of "anti-Iranian and anti-Islamic films," "strategies to encounter the domination Cinema," and "Hollywood and Zionism Cinema."

According to a report yesterday in the Los Angeles Times, much of the conference targeted "Argo," indicative of "Hollywood's plan" in “promoting phobias of Islam and Iran."

The funny thing about the conference is that I totally agree with the idea that "Argo" promotes Islamophobia and anti-Iranian sentiment, as I've argued elsewhere. So there is total validity to these claims. But when they're couched in such obviously anti-Semitic and paranoid extremist fundamentalist beliefs, as evidenced by such panel titles as "Hollywood and Depiction of Moral Values," "Portrayals of Jews in Hollywood," and "September 11 from Hollywood’s Angle: Psychological Elements, Public Deception," the claims lose their validity.

If Iranian conservatives were smarter, they'd present their views in more subtle, sophisticated and less hyperbolic terms. Hollywood is dangerously imperialist, capitalist, and xenophobic. But why do they have to conflate those issues with some worldwide Zionist conspiracy?

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4 Comments

  • pol | February 9, 2013 1:49 AMReply

    So... there's no such thing as Zionism, and/or it has nothing to do with anything?

    I see two competing sides here. One side is demonized and under threat of nuclear annihilation. The other one runs Hollywood.

  • Nick | February 7, 2013 11:55 AMReply

    Wow! Asked and answered. By the man himself no less. I'm not expecting any vibrant discussion about Hollywood islamophobia anytime soon though, at least among film critics. Can't wait to read the essay/entry on "Featured Texts" that Rosenbaum mentions!

  • Jonathan Rosenbaum | February 6, 2013 4:44 PMReply

    My apologies for having been so flip. In fact, I haven't watched more than the first ten minutes or so of Argo, and I found it so uninteresting and unengaging that I couldn't find a reason to continue with it, unless this was to document the stereotypical Islamophobia that Kevin Lee, Mark Cousins, and Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa have already written or told me about. Since I'm not working as a regular reviewer now, there's no professional reason for me to feel obliged to watch something that bores me, especially another piece of Hollywood self-congratulation that people want to throw Oscars at. (The childish Lincoln is another example, and I largely saw that because I was commissioned to review it for the Forward.) I'm not generally a fan of "action movies" anyway. I did, however, write briefly about the film's opening--specifically, the comic-book "history lesson" it offers about Iran--for a bimonthly column I write for a Spanish film magazine, Caiman Cuardernos de Cine, and I'll be posting this column, which is also about Lincoln, on my web site on February 11.

  • Nick | February 6, 2013 4:00 PMReply

    It's unfortunate that a healthy discussion about the barely subtle racism and islamophobia present in many Hollywood movies and TV-shows (even arty genre fare such as "Argo") is tarnished by the influence and involvement of disreputable and anti-semitic figures. It is equally bothersome though that movies like ZDT, Argo and TV-shows like Homeland are such popular and critically beloved staples in pop culture. I know that one my favorite film critics, Jonathan Rosenbaum, declared "Argo" as being the worst movie of last year but he hasn't disclosed why he thinks that. On twitter he explained that he didn't review the film as he only watched 10-15 minutes of it. I still would like to know why he found it objectionable. I know why I found it detestable but I'm just a commenter without a platform. Rosenbaum's input would at least make some waves in the community of film critics and maybe spark a discussion.

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