Thursday, June 18, 2009

From Iran

As some people know, I was approved to go to Iran 10 days before the election to film Obviously I did not go, but received this. I will continue to post emails as I get them.


Ali wrote11 hours ago credit to under Ali reports his own observations on the course of events of 15th June 2009 in Tehran. Credit to lahaf @pfdAlireza A

I left my home in Tajrish along with my family at 3 p.m. We went down Valiast Street which is the main northern-southern avenue in Tehran and entered the Evin Exp'way which leads to Enghelab Street . We knew that people are supposed to gather in Enghelab Sq. (Revolution Sq.) at 4 and march toward Azadi Sq. (Freedom Sq.). From Gisha Bridge onwards, we saw people walking down. Cars were blowing their horns and people were showing victory sign. We went to Navvab Street and parked our car at the end of the street. Then we took a taxi to bring us back to the Enghelab Street . On our way, near Jomhouri Sq. (Republic Sq.), I saw a group of about 20 militia with long beards and batons on motorbikes. My hand was out of the car window with a little green ribbon (the sign of reformists) around my finger. One of the militia told me to throw that ribbon away. I showed him a finger. All of a sudden, about 15 people attacked me inside the car. They beat me with their batons and wanted to pull me out. My wife and my daughter who were sitting in the back seat cried and hold me tight. I also hold myself tight on the chair. They wanted to shatter the car windows. The driver went out and explained that he is a taxi and we are his passengers and he has no fault. After about 5 minutes,they left. My elbow hurts severely. Then, a young man from their group came and kissed my elbow! I told him: You know, I don't hate you. I am like you with the only difference that I know more and you are ignorant. He apologized and left.We joined the crowd in Enghelab Street .

Read carefully:

What I saw today was the most elegant scene I had ever witnessed in my life. The huge number of people were marching hand in hand in full peace. Silence. Silence was everywhere. There was no slogan. No violence. Hands were up in victory sign with green ribbons. People carried placards which read: Silence. Old and young, man and woman of all social groups were marching cheerfully. This was a magnificent show of solidarity. Enghelab Street which is the widest avenue in Tehran was full of people. I was told that the march has begun in Ferdowsi Sq. and the end of the march was now in Imam Hossein Sq. to the further east of Tehran while on the other end people had already gathered in Azadi Sq. The length of this street is about 6 kilometers. The estimate is about 2 million people. On the way, we passed a police department and a militia (Baseej) base. In both places, the doors were closed and we could see fully-armed riot police and militia watching the people from behind the fences. Near Sharif University of Technology where the students had chased away Ahmadinejad a few days ago, Mirhossein Mousavi (the reformist elect president) and Karrubi (the other reformist candidate spoke to people for a few minutes which was received by cries of praise and applause. I felt proud to find myself among such a huge number of passionate people who were showing the most reasonable act of protest. Frankly, I didn't expect such a political maturity from emotional Iranians who easily get excited. My family and I had put stickers on our mouths to represent the suppression. Placards that people carried were different; from poems by the national poet Ahmad Shamlu to light-hearted slogans against Ahmadinejad. Examples include: " To slaughter us/ why did you need to invite us / to such an elegant party" (Poem by Shamlu). " Hello! Hello! 999? / Our votes were stolen" or " The Miracle of the Third Millenium: 2 x 2 = 24 millions" (alluding to the claim by Government that Ahmadinejad obtained 24 million votes) , "Where is my vote?" , " Give me back my vote" and many other.

We arrived in Azadi Square where the entire square was full of population. It is said that around 500,000 people can be accommodated in this huge square and it was full. Suddenly we saw smoke from Jenah Freeway and heard the gunshot. People were scared at first but then went forward. I just heard the gunshots but my sister who had been on the scene at that part told me later that she saw 4 militia came out from a house and shot a girl. Then they shot a young boy in his eye and the bullet came out of his ear. She said that 4 people were shot. At least one person dead has been confirmed. People arrested one of the Baseeji militia but the three others ran away when they ran out of bullet. At around 8 we went back on foot. On the way back people were still in the street and were chanting Allah Akbar (God is Great).

I was coming home at around 2 a.m. In parkway, I saw about ten buses full of armed riot police parked on the side of the street. Then I saw scattered militia in civil clothes with clubs in hand patroling the empty streets. In Tajrish Square , I saw a very young boy (around 16) with a club who was looking at the cars to see if he can find something to attack. I don't know how and under what teachings can young boys change into militia.I came home. Tomorrow, people will gather again in Valiasr Square for another peaceful march toward the IRIB building which controls all the media and which spreads filthy lies. The day before Yesterday, Ahmadinejad had hold his victory ceremony. Government buses had transported all his supporters from nearby cities. There was full coverage of that ceremony where fruit juice and cake was plenty. A maximum of 100,000 had gathered to hear his speech. These included all the militia and the soldiers and all supporters he could gather by the use of free TV publicity. Today, at least 2 million came only relying on word of mouth while reformists have no newspaper, no radio, no TV. All their internet sites are filtered as well as social networks such as facebook. Text messaging and mobile communication was also cut off during the demonstration. Since yesterday, the Iranian TV was announcing that there is no license for any gathering and riot police will severely punish anybody who may demonstrates. Ahmadinejad called the opposition as a bunch of insignificant dirt who try to make the taste of victory bitter to the nation. He also called the western leaders as a bunch of "filthy homosexuals". All these disgusting remarks was today answered by that largest demonstration ever. Older people compared the demonstration of today with the Ashura Demonstration of 1979 which marks the downfall of the Shah regime and even said that it outnumbered that event.The militia burnt a house themselves to find the excuse to commit violence. People neutralized their tactic to a large degree by their solidarity, their wisdom and their denial to enage in any violent act.

I feel sad for the loss of those young girls and boys. It is said that they also killed 3 students last night in their attack at Tehran University residence halls. I heard that a number of professors of Sharif University and AmirKabir University (Tehran Polytechnic) have resigned.Democracy is a long way ahead. I may not be alive to see that day. With eyes full of tear in these early hours of Tuesday 16th June 2009, I glorify the courage and bravery of those martyrs and I hope that their blood will make every one of us more committed to freedom, to democracy and to human rights.Viva Freedom, Viva Democracy, Viva Iran

p.s.: If you find this report of any value, please share it with as many people as possible. Facebook is filtered and internet is very slow in Iran . Please somebody put this on facebook.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Memorial Day thoughts

My Mom received a letter that is about soldiers from her hometown who died in WWII. She had an older brother who was 20 years her senior, who died in the war. She did not know him as she was 4 years old when he died.

One part of the letter my Mom received was a copy of the letter that was sent to my Grandmother on the death of her son, Cpl. Adolph Zoeller, Jr. Adolph was killed in the Normandy Invasion. The letter was from Capt. R. Young, his commanding officer.

"Thank you for writing me. I thank you because I cannot write the parents of boys who have been in our company and given their lives for God and country except when their parents write to me after they have received official notification.

I am not a chaplain, a company does not have one. I am Adolph's company commander. I was not present at his burial but I have received official notification that he is buried on the Normandy coast of France with his comrades in arms, who gave their all that this might be a better world to live in.

He was always in this tank company. He was listed as in the infantry because all the armed force is so listed unless they came from the cavalry. As for his personal belongings, you should receive them in time, but due to many, many jobs the Army has to do, it may be some time before they arrive.

I am sorry that I cannot give you some ray of hope, but I believe you would rather know that Adolph has gone to meet his Maker than to keep hoping in vain.

There have been so many, many heroes in this war that they cannot all be acclaimed, but always know that your son was and is one of the unsung heroes who made the landing on the coast of France possible.

He was always thorough and dependable and remained so to the very end. I am proud to have had him in my company.

I know God has blessed your son and may his blessings fall upon you also."

I am not a mother, but I can imagine the pain my Grandmother must have felt on losing her oldest child. It would be the same pain all mothers, be they Americans, Africans, Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans, Israelis, Iranians, Asians, Germans, Russians, mothers from all races, religions and cultures must feel. No one group has the exclusive rights to grief at the loss of a child in battle.

Governments own the wars, but it is all of the mothers and fathers of soldiers who own the grief. While the US Memorial Day honors those who died in battle, those left behind, wherever they are, should be thought of as well.

Adolph was brought back to the US from his burial place in Normandy after WWII ended and laid to rest in Marion Illinois.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Antar of Liwa

We just closed our launch investor for $15m for the pre-production of our film, Antar of Liwa! The investor is from the MENA region.

Needless to say, it has been a lot of work. We think it's a great film franchise as he's an action hero, but the script is true to the original story and brings a lot of Arab influence/culture into play. That's what happens when you have lived in the UAE!

Now we will be contacting talent and it is a mix of International actors. We are also developing an animated series, The Adventures of Antar.

Still not certain if we will actually film in Liwa, as it's rather expensive to film in UAE, but if it makes sense, we will certainly try to. Mansoor Abulhoul in Dubai is heading up the financial investment arm for the film franchise, as we will probably be in LA through the summer dealing with pre-production.
I really miss AD, but should be back soon.

Friday, March 6, 2009

My Visa Refusal Response

I figured that I might as well respond to this...not that it may do any good, but what could it hurt?

This was kindly picked up by Mr. Eftekhari at the Mehr News Agency, the official news agency of Iran and published in both Farsi and English, as well as was published in the Tehran Times.

In November of 2006, President Ahmedinejad published his address to the American people. He stated, “While Divine providence has placed Iran and the United States geographically far apart, we should be cognizant that human values and our common human spirit, which proclaim the dignity and exalted worth of all human beings, have brought our two great nations of Iran and the United States closer together.” It is unfortunate that the Iranian Foreign Ministry does not share his view and have refused our request for visas.

I can understand the frustration regarding the press restrictions imposed on President Ahmedinejad when he visited the US. As free speech is valued in my country and a right granted to its citizens, personally I do not see any reason why it should be an issue for a visiting President. However, I am a private citizen, not a member of my country’s government, nor it’s military or affiliated with a press organization. I have no direct input into government policies, just the same as a private citizen in Iran would have regarding their government’s policies.

It is precisely this frustration we are trying to address. There is so little information available to the West about Iran, and virtually no positive information. It is easy to be angry and frustrated about this, the difficult part is to take responsibility and do something positive to change the situation.

This year, the Iranian people will cast their vote for their President. As Mr. Shamaqdari rightly stated, We the People of the Islamic Republic of Iran will be done to show how democracy works in Iran and how the Iranian people get involved. We are not interested in who wins, but rather what is the process. I don’t see how this could be anything but a positive portrayal of Iran and it’s people, not a sensational one.

I was invited to come to Iran and I take that very seriously. Mr. Shamaqdari and Mr. Eslamloo have both been supportive and generous with their time and information. The Iranian friends and associates I have in the UAE and US all have this quality, they are an open, generous people. We all need to work to promote understanding between different cultures. However this is virtually impossible unless different cultures are allowed to learn more about each other. It is very easy to fear something you don’t understand and prejudice against a religion, race or culture, starts with fear.

I would hope that after some reflection, the Iranian Foreign Ministry would realize that our goal is to be supportive and interested in their democratic process, not negative and that they reverse their decision regarding our coming to Iran to film.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Latest From Iran

Well it seems that while one faction of the Govt. approved my going to Iran, the Foreign Ministry said NO.

I have been told that this can be over I am still waiting and fortunately the Cultural advisor Javad Shamaqdari is in my corner. Patience is needed when dealing with such issues! I am interested to hear that there is a group from Hollywood visiting Iran now (not filming however!) The posted articles are from Iranian site Press TV.

Iran denies US director Nickelson visa? Sat, 14 Feb 2009 17:25:24 GMT

American documentary maker and head of the UAE-based Mirage Holdings Michelle Nickelson has been refused an entry visa into Iran.

Nickelson and her LA crew had obtained permits from the Iranian government to visit the country and make a documentary about its upcoming presidential election. Iran's Foreign Ministry has however denied the American documentary maker and her team entrance to the country.

“Unfortunately the visa denial has delayed Ms. Nickelson's visit to Iran,” film producer Mohammad-Reza Eslamlou told Fars News Agency.

Eslamlou, who was to contribute to the project, criticized the Foreign Ministry's decision saying that the American filmmaker only intended to bridge the gap between Iranians and Americans.

“I wonder why hostile foreign news agencies are allowed to freely make films in Iran and arrange interviews with high-ranking officials but Ms. Nickelson who wants to portray democracy in our country is not welcome,” said Eslamlou.

Michelle Nickelson's We the People of the Islamic Republic of Iran was to explore the election process in Iran.

"We want to interview a broad representation of people living there and how it feels for them in the run-up to the upcoming presidential election," Nickelson said in a 2008 interview.

"Most Americans don't realize that, in addition to the Shia, there is also a Jewish and Christian community in Iran and they have representation in the government," she said. TE/HGH

US producer to film Iran elections Sat, 13 Dec 2008 17:22:31 GMT

An Iranian woman casts her ballot.Head of the UAE based Mirage Holdings Michelle Nickelson is slated to make a documentary on Iran's upcoming presidential election.

We the People of the Islamic Republic of Iran will explore the election process in the country. "We want to interview a broad representation of people living there and how it feels for them in the run-up to next summer's presidential election," Nickelson said.

"Most Americans don't realize that, in addition to the Shi'ah, there is also a Jewish and Christian community in Iran and they have representation in the government," she added.

According to Hollywood Reporter, Nickelson and her LA crew have obtained permits from the Iranian government to visit the country next year and scout for locations as well as finding interviewees.

This is while the cultural adviser to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Javad Shamaqdari has announced that Nickelson's documentary will portray democracy in Iran and is not intended as an election advertisement for the incumbent president. TE/HGH