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Iran Upset Over Film on French TV

June 17, 1998

YSSINGEAUX, France (AP) _ Instead of thinking about its next match, the politically charged game with the United States, the Iranian soccer team is furious about a movie.

The film, ``Not Without My Daughter,″ was shown on a privately owned French television station Monday night. It portrays Iranians as dirty, boorish and cruel, obsessed with their Islamic religion and its attitudes toward women.

``Out of 365 days in a year, why was this film shown now?″ said star striker Khodadad Azizi. ``I think that the showing was not without reason, and it has hurt morale.″

The film, which stars Sally Field as an American woman who escapes from Iran with her daughter against the wishes of her Iranian husband, is based on a book by Betty Mahmoudi.

Channel M6 showed the film late Monday, hours after the Iranians lodged a protest with the French government, as well as the World Cup organizing committee and FIFA.

``We see this as nothing but a political exercise and as an insult to our country, our government and our players,″ Safaei Farahani, head of Iran’s soccer federation, said Tuesday. ``We hold the French government responsible for allowing the screening of the film ...″

Azizi took off the yellow cap given by the French Organizing Committee and pointed to its ``Fair Play″ logo.

``Is the showing of this movie, which is an insult to our people, fair play?″ asked Azizi. ``Fair play is not limited to the field. The French organizers must ensure fair play off the field as well. I’m not going to wear this cap again.″

In Paris, the press section of the Iranian Embassy vehemently denied reports in the French media that the team was about to withdraw from the tournament in protest to the film.

The station did receive a telephone call from the upset Iranians.

``The only reaction we have had is that of the Iranian embassy, and for us it has not sparked a diplomatic crisis,″ said M6 director of communications Michelle Lordelle. ``It is a shame this happened during the World Cup, but we are not going to change our programing.

``Everywhere in the world this film has been shown, the Iranians have objected and tried to stop it.″

The French Foreign Ministry said today it had received a copy of the letter the Iranian Embassy sent to M6 before the film was aired. The ministry’s deputy spokesman, Yves Doutriaux, refused to divulge the letter’s contents.

``In France, the media is independent,″ Doutriaux said at a daily briefing. ``(The government) cannot become involved in the programming of private channels. We hope that the World Cup can go forward in the best conditions possible with all teams participating.″

Azizi and midfielders Mohammad Khakpour and Alireza Mansourian, speaking on behalf of their team, said the film was an insult to Iranian players and fans who had come to France with goodwill.

Azizi said he was so upset with the showing of the film that he couldn’t watch Monday’s match between Germany and the United States, teams the Iranians still have to play.

``But this does not mean we will not play our soccer against the United States and Germany,″ he said.

``In Iran, people laugh when they see this film and how it portrays Iranians,″ said Mansourian. ``They consider it a comedy.″

Iran’s hard-line Resalat daily claimed the film was broadcast to put pressure on Iranian players and to embarrass Iranians in general.

``One aim of the propaganda exercise was to put psychological pressure on the Iranian football players and fans who are gathering in France to encourage the team,″ the Farsi-language paper said Tuesday.

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