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Vice in Iran (It’s Not What You Think)

Vice's Fixer didn't explain to Smith about thumbs up in Iran...

Vice’s fixer didn’t explain to Smith what thumbs up in Iran means…

Vice Magazine brings its trademark irreverent humour to Iran and digs briefly into the film industry. “Iranians love the school of their children and the cinema” they are told. To be fair presenter, Shane Smith’s pronunciation isn’t that bad. A Canadian who’s made films for Vice looking at for example, Mexican cinema, Smith has a sense of humour (and beard) that are a good passport to any Middle Eastern country.

What did we learn? Not much except that The Wrestler is on the list of films that have upset Iran (and the others are highly insulting – unbelievable that anyone’s making a 300 #2 with the same slimey, completely twisted misrepresentation of Persian king Xerxes, son of Darius, in it). This ultra pop-culture style trip (“Oh look at that, thank god I’m not on acid!” provides a nifty visual window into offices we never get a peep into, e.g. the 3rd International Urban Film Festival, and reminds us how little Westerners (specifically some) understand about the rest of the world generally.  “Politics fade away but culture and arts remain in the course of history” the presenter is told on camera. Good, Vice audiences, not the most culturally eloquent, will have a better picture of the humanity behind the headlines constantly fed to them by other media platforms. Highlights: their review of an Iranian DVD shop, their chats with women in cinema (a director and actress) and their chat with a “hip Imam” Mohhamad Ali-Zan. Oh, and when Shane accepts a film award for Guy Maddin, is persuaded to pretend to BE Maddin, and speaks a line in Farsi ‘Man Iran-o kehili doost daram!” to a standing ovation.

This is far richer than, say the Vice doc on Krocodil in Russia, which had far fewer instructive cultural windows as this one did in it. We think Ben Affleck should watch this.Pretty much all the stereotypes we’d seen in Western media before going to Iran were dispelled when we went there“.  And thanks to the Vice team, we’re off to check out The Snowman in which an Iranian man takes to cross-dressing and plans to marry a US man to get his visa…

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