Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Iranium: a Sneak Preview

A couple of weeks a go, I mentioned the little diplomatic incident between Canada and Iran over the upcoming documentary 'Iranium', which is highly critical of the Ayatollah's regime and alerts the viewers to their nuclear ambitions. The Iranian government threatened the Canadian government and demanded the movie will not be showcased at the Library and Archives Canada, which is a government institution, in Ottawa. The Harper government, which has been very consistent with regards to a firm stance on foreign policy, has refused to cave in.

In the Canadian media this was a debate over free speech. The boorish demands of a regressive dictatorship to suppress criticism and freedom of speech in a western democracy has certainly been an effective PR tool for the producers. By this I am not trying to say that the entire heated exchange of words was a publicity stunt, but it certainly brought my attention to the film.

I ended signing up for the film's public premiere. For the next 12 hours or so, you can watch the entire movie for free (by clicking on the widget below). I already watched it and recommend you do the same while it is possible. If public access is no longer available, or you want to find out more about it before committing an hour, here's my impression:

First of all, as someone who has been informing myself about Iran through mostly ordinary sources, there wasn't a hell of a lot I didn't really know. The movie is composed of lots of video footage taken from Western and Iranian media, accompanied by expert interviews. It's all accompanied by the type of score you'd associate with a thriller.

Second of all, this is presented as an agenda piece. The filmmakers did not try to pretend that they wish the viewer to arrive at a very specific conclusion: The Iranian regime is dangerous to Israel, it's dangerous to America, it's dangerous to Europe, it's bent on getting nuclear weapons and it's fantasizing about the apocalypse. Which are all valid points by the way. It features prominent Iranian dissidents, as well as heavyweights such as Amb. Bolton, former director of the CIA James Woolsey and renowned orientalist Bernard Lewis.

The movie is divided into small sections or chapters, starting from the Iranian revolution and the US hostage crisis, followed by its attempt to export the revolution, sponsor international terrorism, crackdown on democracy and dissent (at home and abroad), the power structure of the Sepah (Revolutionary Guard), it's insistence on acquiring nuclear weapons, existential threat to Israel, the regime's apocalyptic bend, followed by a concluding chapter on how this global threat can be stopped.

Although I did not learn much from this movie, I think this is an excellent starting point for people with very little knowledge on the situation. While the sources of information are fairly standard and publicly available, they are clustered into a very effective collage in this film. Left leaning skeptics can often reject John Bolton's statement for some ad hoc reason such as him being a neo-con. His words do not ring hollow when they are immediately followed by the words of Ahmadinijad or Hamenai themselves.

At these tense times in the Middle East, the movie has an added dimension of significance that perhaps the filmmakers did not originally envision. The goal of defeating the murderous gang that has hijacked the lives of Iranians as important by itself. However, as the winds of revolution sweep across the Muslim world, it highlights how the west has gone wrong before when handling  the region. 

In Iran, we saw how a relatively modern nation ruled by a fairly moderate autocrat decides to revolt against his rule. What started as a popular revolt, lead by Liberals, Marxists and others, allied the Islamists only to be utterly hijacked by them. All it took is for a cleric to boost the national ego and have a galvanizing heroic (though boneheaded) move such as the US Hostage crisis. Is it logical to worry that the same will happen in Egypt? After all, Egypt has a warmspot for traditional Islam, a substantial Islamist movement and currently, a tarnished national ego.

Overall, I think this is a timely documentary. If you are relatively new to the issue and would like to learn more, this is a very effective starting point. If you feel you know it all but have about an hour to spend, I highly recommend it!



  1. You've done a very good assessment of the film which I watched at York University in Toronto. I think that every single person on this planet needs to see this film ASAP! Especially Egyptions right now who face a similar crossroad just as the Iranians did in 1979.

  2. Hi Leon,

    I actually watched it a few days prior to the York screening from the comfort of my living room :)

    I do work in the building where the screening took place, so I was obviously disturbed by the racket.

    Ironically 'Iranians against Iranium' are the same people that were seeking international support to topple the same regime which the aforementioned film outlines its crimes, am I wrong?