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My big fat Persian culture
What's wrong with it?

October 2, 2002
The Iranian

Last week I finally convinced three Iranian friends of mine to watch the new comedy, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". I guaranteed that if they don't laugh their heads off, I would give them their money book. I told them this movie is a real gem.

I was right. The movie was extremely funny and enjoyable and I did not have to return anyone's money as everyone enjoyed the movie very much. After the movie, after hours or discussion on reasons that made the movie a big success, we all agreed that the major factor is probably the fact that everyone -- in one way or other -- can relate to the story.

I suggested that this could have very well have been an movie on an Iranian wedding. It probably could have been as funny and successful. We all wondered why no Iranian film director has thought of making a film in the same lines.

Why is it that most Iranian movies these days are either too artistic (for a limited audience) or about poverty, depression or despair. Why can't Kiarostami or Panahi or Makhmalbaf make a simple movie that portrays a positive aspect about our culture?

Take for example the movie "The Circle" by Jafar Panahi. What is the purpose of this movie other than revealing life in Iran at its lowest point. We are quite tired of all these directors whose only goal is to collect as many film awards from different international organizations, disregarding the negative impact that their movies may have on non-Iranian viewers both inside and outside of Iran.

Remember the famous Chinese proverb "A picture is a thousand words"? It is extremely difficult to convince a Westerner who sees a movie like "The Circle" that most Iranians do not share the same lifestyles as the characters in the movie.

We always criticize Westerners for not knowing enough about our country or believing what they read or see in news media. Can we really blame them when what they read is pretty much reflected in the movies that our own directors make and show in the Western world?

After seeing "Greek Wedding", it seems like being Greek is hip. Let's remember that Greece, despite its rich history, is one of the poorest countries in Europe. It is amazing how one movie can so easily change perceptions.

We Iranians are very good in blaming everyone and everything except ourselves. Before criticizing foreigners for not knowing much about our culture and way of life, we should first criticize our own artists and flamers for doing a terrible job themselves.


Dr. Etminan is a pharmaceutical researcher at the University of Toronto. His recent findings on a new class of drugs that may prevent headache will be published in the June 2002 issue of the American Journal of Medicine.

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By Mahyar Etminan



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