Iran's UN Mission expressed outrage Thursday at the "deliberate distortions" of ancient Persia in the blockbuster movie "300" and suggested it was propaganda for Western efforts to "demonize the Iranian nation."
In a statement, the mission denounced the "crude demonization of Persians as the embodiment of evil, moral corruption."
The movie, which raked in US$70 million (â‚¬52.43 million) in its opening weekend, is based on a comic-book fantasy version of the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., in which a force of 300 Spartans held off a massive Persian army at a mountain pass in Greece for three days.
Even some American reviewers noted the political overtones of the West-against-Iran storyline - and the way Persians in the movie are depicted as decadent, sexually flamboyant and evil in contrast to the noble Greeks.
The mission's statement came amid a standoff between Iran and the UN Security Council over the Islamic country's nuclear program. The US and its European allies fear Iran's program is a cover for producing nuclear weapons, while Teheran insists it is only seeking an alternate source of energy. The council could vote within days to impose new sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.
Paul Cartledge, professor of Greek history at Cambridge University in England who consulted on both the movie and an exhibit, told the Associated Press earlier this month that the film was good entertainment, though not as "a documentary of what actually happened at Thermopylae" or of the situation in Greece and Persia at that time.
"The movie both suggests what is false - that the Persian king was an outlandish giant with multiple piercings, etc. - and suppresses what is true - the Spartans were in fact fighting as the lead members of a Greek alliance," he said.
Cartledge also said the Persian Empire "was not a one-dimensional barbaric despotism but actually quite civilized and tolerant in many ways - even if by no means well disposed to Greek-style democracy."
The statement from Iran's UN Mission asked "why the film fails to convey a bare minimum truth about Iranian history and indulges in invention perverse, demonic images of Persians."
"Indeed, the movie's distorted fabrications about the Persians cannot be isolated from the current concerted efforts by certain Western interest circles to systematically demonize the Iranian nation," the mission added. "The movie's slavish imitation of the anti-Iran discourses by those circles is inextricably tied up with its voice-over metaphoric thrust, reflecting a subtle propaganda that feels no obligation to respecting the sensibilities of the Iranian people."
The film touched a sensitive nerve in Iran even though it will probably never open there because of the government's restrictions on Western films.
The cultural advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denounced it, state-run television ran several commentaries calling the film insulting, and Iranian film directors have pointed to its historical inaccuracies.