(AFP) – Mar 1, 2009
TEHRAN (AFP) — Top US film actress Annette Bening, in Iran as part of a Hollywood delegation, said on Sunday she hoped their presence in the country can help to kick-start talks between arch-foes Washington and Tehran.
"I hope that we can be a bridge to open a dialogue between the two countries", Bening, wearing a black traditional hejab and headscarf, told reporters.
She is part of a team of film-makers and actors from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the organisation which stages the annual Oscars, that is currently on a week-long visit to the Islamic republic.
The delegation is on a private initiative to stage workshops with their Iranian counterparts, a rarity in a country where the authorities brand the United States the "Great Satan."
After her brief statement, Bening and the other team members began a three-day workshop at Tehran's museum of cinema, an AFP photographer said.
The film star's remarks come a day after an aide to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged the Hollywood team to apologise for "insults and slanders" dealt to Iranians in American movies.
Iranian cinema "officials will only have the right to have official sessions with... Hollywood movie makers when they apologise to the Iranians for their 30 years of insults and slanders," Javad Shamaghdari said on Saturday.
"The Iranian people and our revolution has been repeatedly unjustly attacked by Hollywood," he said, citing "300" and recent Oscar-nominated movie "The Wrestler" as among the offending films.
In 2007, the Spartan war epic "300," a smash hit in the United States for its gory portrayal of the Greco-Persian wars, drew the wrath of Iranians for depicting their ancestors as bloodthirsty.
Similarly "The Wrestler" was booed in Iran and heavily criticised over a scene in which an Iranian flag was torn by the picture's star, 2009 Oscar nominee Mickey Rourke.
Last week the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Hassan Ghashghavi, said that Hollywood was producing 30 more anti-Iranian films.
He said such productions were aimed at targeting "not only Iran's religious and historical identity but also the country's social values including hospitality in an attempt to show hostility towards the Islamic Republic."
"There are certain political objectives behind a number of movies under the pretext of creating art," he told reporters.
US-Iran diplomatic relations were severed 30 years ago after the Islamic revolution toppled the US-backed shah, and the rift has been further aggravated over Tehran's recent controversial nuclear programme of uranium enrichment.
But Washington and Tehran have recently shown tentative policy shifts after US President Barack Obama said earlier this month that his administration would be ready in coming months to hold a "face-to-face" talk with Tehran.
The Hollywood delegation includes AMPAS president Sid Ganis, former president Frank Pierson, and top producer William Horberg.
They were invited to Tehran by the Iranian Alliance of Motion Pictures for a series of workshops. Iranian participants include top actors Fatemeh Motamed Arya, Homayoun Ershadi, Habib Rezaei and Bahareh Rahnama.
Sean Penn, who won the 2009 best actor Oscar for his performance as a trailblazing gay politician in "Milk," also visited Iran in 2005.
"It is a culture in love with cinema. With Brad Pitt. Angelina Jolie. And anything Steven Spielberg," Penn wrote about the Iranians after his visit during which he even attended Friday prayer services in Tehran.
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