Over the past several years, many major movie stars have appeared in films about the war in Iraq. Even though many of those movies, including the recent “Green Zone,” failed dismally at the box office, movies like that film arguably received more credibility and publicity because of the well-known stars and directors who worked on them. For the “Green Zone”, that included stars Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear and the movie’s director Paul Greengrass. One would only wish that these same celebrities would focus less on criticizing U.S. policy in Iraq and focus more of their attention on the stories that are not being told about what is going on today in Iran.
I recently had the opportunity to watch a new movie that focused on Iran entitled “Atomic Jihad: Ahmadinejad’s Coming War for Islamic Revival and Obama’s Politics of Defeat.” “Atomic Jihad” is a new documentary written and directed by Joel Gilbert. Because the movie often focuses on religion and the Middle East, it is bound to be a controversial film. The movie focuses on some extremists in the region including the current leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I am not as familiar with the region as Mr. Gilbert is so I cannot testify to the accuracy of everything in the movie but I can state that this film is worth watching for people who want to learn more about the history of the region.
To me, the strongest part of the film focused on the disparity between the diplomatic rhetoric of President Obama and the harsh and demeaning rhetoric of President Ahmadinejad of Iran.
During the presidential campaign of 2008, President Obama received a lot of criticism for being open to talks with Iran and Mr. Ahmadinejad. According to a CNN.com article from late in that year, it was noted that “[t]he Obama-Biden Web site calls for ‘tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions.'” Since that time and Obama’s inauguration, Ahmadinejad has continued his angry rhetoric and made accusations against our nation including, according to CNN.com, his recent statement that the September 11th attacks were “a ‘big lie’ intended to pave the way for the invasion of a war-torn nation, according to Iranian state media.”
Gilbert’s film discusses the rhetoric of the two leaders and although Obama has seemingly become more forceful recently in talking about Iran’s leader, many would likely still argue that he has not been forceful enough especially after last year’s contentious election in Iran. In showing clips of the two leaders, Gilbert raises serious questions about our president’s diplomatic rhetoric. Although people on the left and right can disagree about the forcefulness of rhetoric that the president should use, both sides can likely agree that Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric throughout the past several years has been bitter and angry towards the United States and he continues to speak out against the U.S. and Israel, regardless of who the president of our nation is. Gilbert’s film is a small but important film about the region that raises serious questions about our president’s rhetoric concerning Iran.
Gilbert’s film and the history depicted in it also raises a broader question about Iran at the movies. One wonders why more mainstream films have not been made about what is going on in that nation. Films about Iraq with major stars hadve received a lot of media attention. However, many of the same mainstream celebrities depicted in movies about Iraq have not brought the same amount of attention to what is going on today in Iran.
Last year, I had the opportunity to interview Shohreh Aghdashloo for “Big Hollywood” about her movie “The Stoning of Soraya M.” Aghdashloo, who I noted in the article was the first Iranian to be nominated for an Academy Award for acting, has used her opportunities as an actress to tell important stories about Iran. Her most recent film doing that was “Soraya M.,” a movie that brought publicity to the cruel act of stoning people to death as punishment. Several years before that, she also appeared in the film “House of Sand and Fog,” a fictional story about an Iranian couple struggling to make a decent living in the United States.
It is disappointing that more mainstream actors, actresses and writers have not done more work to educate people about issues in Iran but it is great to see people like Mr. Gilbert and Ms. Aghdashloo try to bring attention to political issues surrounding that nation. There are many stories that should be told through films that have not been (including at least dozens of stories about the controversial elections last year and the protests afterwards). One hopes that with the box office failure of “The Green Zone” and other movies like it, celebrities will stop telling conspiracy stories about U.S. foreign policy and they start addressing real foreign policy issues (like the current situation in Iran) that are not getting the publicity they deserve.