Popular TV show highlights Iran’s complexity

by mgopin on February 23, 2010 · 2 comments

Shahab Husseini stars in 'Zero Degree Turn.'

Every Monday night, Iranians by the millions watch the most expensive show ever aired on the Islamic republic’s state-owned television – and the subject would surprise you.

The hour-long state-funded Iranian drama   “Zero Degree Turn,” centers on a love story between an Iranian-Palestinian Muslim man and a French Jewish woman. Over the course of the 22 episodes, the hero saves his love from Nazi detention camps, and Iranian diplomats in France forge passports for the woman and her family to sneak on to airplanes carrying Iranian Jews to their homeland.

The aim of the show, according to many inside and outside the country, is to draw a clear distinction between the government’s views about Judaism — which is accepted across Iranian society — and its stance on Israel — which the leadership denounces every chance it gets.

In creating the show, the director enlisted the help of Iran’s Jewish Association, an independent body that safeguards the community’s culture and heritage. The association has criticized Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments about the Holocaust but has praised Mr. Fatthi’s show.

While Iran makes it no secret that it considers Israel an enemy, it has been extremely touchy about criticism of its treatment of Jewish citizens. Iran is home to some 25,000 Jews who are guaranteed equal rights in the country’s constitution. Despite Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statements, it isn’t government policy to question the Holocaust, and the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hasn’t endorsed those views.

“In this show, you notice that a new method of political dialogue is being promoted that is more in line with the modern world,” says Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a reformist cleric and former Iranian vice president.

The message appears to be grabbing the public. Sara Khatibi, a 35-year-old mother and chemist in Tehran, says she and her husband never miss an episode. “All we ever hear about Jews is rants from the government about Israel,” she says. “This is the first time we are seeing another side of the story and learning about their plight.”

Read the full article about the show HERE.

© Marc Gopin

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