Big Hollywood – –
By Sarah Lee
Alfred Hitchcock was reputed to have said, “In feature films the director is God; in docu
mentary films God is the director.” While this enigmatic statement can be read and interpreted several different ways, one thing’s for certain: implicit is the idea that documentary filmmaking is powerful, heady stuff. It can, and has, been used to instruct and inform and – regrettably – propagandize and confuse. Generally, it’s left up to the viewer to decide if what they’re seeing is of the first or second variety.
And so it is for a viewer who happens upon an alarming film called Iranium, a 60-minute window into the very real threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. Released by the Clarion fund and directed by Alex Traiman, the film is at once gritty, brutal, terrifying and hopeful. And most importantly, if the professional and political pedigrees of those interviewed in the film are any indication, frighteningly true.
Traiman, a journalist living in Israel and covering the Middle East, says he became fully aware of the threat of a nuclear armed Iran after attending a 4 day conference that focused on the subject in Israel in 2009. “So I started reading,” he says. “After reading ‘The Rise of Nuclear Iran’ by Dore Gold and ‘Persian Night’ by Amir Taheri, I realized that there were several components that most Westerners did not know about the threat: There is a deep ideology guiding Iran’s leaders since 1979; there is a 30 year history of killing Americans that continues today; and that Western leaders have repeatedly misread the intentions of Iran’s leaders.”
In fact, Traiman adds, Westerners have a tendency to misunderstand the true nature of the threat because we insist on filtering the events in the Middle East, from the Iranian Revolution in 1979 to the events occurring today in Egypt and Libya, through a decidedly Western value system.
“There is most certainly a huge disconnect between the nature of these oppressive regimes and how they are viewed in the West,” Traiman says. “We view events in the Muslim world, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, through a prism of values that is uniquely American. But those nations across the world have a completely different system of values that were established long before America ever became a nation.”
And so Traiman has made a film that seeks to shine a light on that value system so that Westerners can begin to understand what an armed Iran actually means to the world from both a political and ideological perspective.
Narrated by the immediately recognizable voice of the award-winning Iranian-American actress Shohreh Agdashloo, the film tells the story of an Iran that has teetered on the verge of democracy for years, only to succumb to the tyrannical and power-hungry ideology of former leader Ayatollah Khomeini. In fact, the film – supported by interviews from both sides of the American political spectrum along with heavyweights in international security policy – maintains that the current Iranian leadership is nothing more than a continuation of that same Mullah-inspired cultural mandate: to wit, hatred for the West and for her allies, most notably, of course, Israel.
While Traiman might have taken the easy way out with his film and relied only on striking images of throngs of young Iranians chanting death to America at the behest of their leadership, or the almost unthinkable ways in which Iran moves ever closer to the American Southern border and how a nuclear weapon might best be deployed (hint: Electromagnetic Pulse), he wisely chooses to also include the voice of one such Iranian who can offer first-hand experience, a gentleman who goes by the name Reza Khalili.
Khalili, who uses a pseudonym because he was once employed as a Iranian Revolutionary Guard member out of patriotism and made the painful choice to begin working for the CIA when he discovered that the promise of the 1979 Revolution was being distorted and mangled to fit a worldview that seeks to dismantle the West, offers the film a credibility it may not have had without his close observation.
Khalili’s book, “A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran” is used as training material in the Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy in the Department of Defense, and so he is recognized as someone who understands the nuances of Iran’s quest for power. He is a man quick to acknowledge his love of country and quicker to acknowledge his sadness at what has become of his homeland.
“They have chosen to betray the people,” says Khalili, echoing Traiman’s film in asserting that the only remedy for a nuclear Iran is an overthrow of the currently fragile government and some sort of new rule driven by the will of the people. “[The Iranian leadership] believe Islam [must] conquer the world – a lack of understanding of this philosophy has caused failure.”
Both Khalili and Traiman are dedicated to making sure that this failure does not become the standard. For his part, Khalili is confused by the American reaction to Iran’s repeated, thinly-veiled threats. “I am confused because this administration should realize both negotiations and sanctions have failed,” he says incredulously. Further, he remains in awe that the civilized world has refused to decry the growing relationship between Iran and North Korea. “What else do we need? What else are we looking for?”
Traiman, in making Iranium, is asking the same question and, simultaneously, offering an answer. “Once we decide that it is unacceptable to us that Iran would ever get its hands on nuclear weapons, we can demand that our policy leaders take appropriate actions,” he says. “Based on events within Iran and across the Muslim world, a new Iranian revolution appears to be a best-scenario to dealing with Iran’s nuclear threat. We can support Iran’s democratic movement in a variety of ways from financial to technical. Verbal moral support can play a major role.”
In other words, the West needs to do something we are uniquely granted the right to do: speak up.
Catch screenings of the film by visiting the website at www/iraniumthemovie.com/news/premieres/
This article was originally published here.