Sean Stone, son of famous director Oliver and a budding filmmaker himself, recently arrived at the Toronto Film Festival from Tehran, where he was launching a production company to make movies based in Iranian history and culture. Well-known for such films as Platoon, Wall Street, Natural Born Killers, and World Trade Center, Sean’s father is also notorious for befriending such standard bearers of anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism as Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. In an exclusive interview with the entertainment industry website The Wrap, Sean Stone proved that the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Carrying on his father’s legacy of excusing totalitarians, Stone the Younger defended the Iranian President, apocalyptic madman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and supported Iran’s right to arm itself with the ultimate weapon. “Israel has nuclear weapons, Iran has the right to them,” he pointed out. “Every nation has the right to self determination for defense.” Defense? Against threats from Israel? Sean has it exactly backwards. The theocratic regime in Iran, the world’s foremost state sponsor of international terrorism, has been racing to acquire the nuclear weapons that will dangerously alter the balance of power in the Middle East and put Iran in a position to wipe Israel from the map, as Ahmadinejad has pledged to do so many times.
Or has he? Stone claims that Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier who suggests that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by the U.S. and Israel, and that World Wars I and II were started by Zionists, is merely “misunderstood”:
He did come to America to extend a hand. And there’s a lot of mistranslation, literally, I’ve seen it. Ahmadinejad will say something and it will be mistranslated. A lot of this is bullshit, mistranslation. It’s an aggressive attitude on both parts, mostly on the American side.
America is the real aggressor, and genocidal dictators are just misunderstood. Father Oliver couldn’t have said it better.
Sean Stone, who wants to make films in Iran because “I’m very international-minded,” bristled at criticism of the Iranian regime. It’s “like someone coming to your house and saying the father shouldn’t hit the kids. Who are we to tell them how to rule their country?” A closer analogy would be if the father were not only hitting his own kids, but killing the more rebellious ones and then running all over the neighborhood killing other people’s kids as well, especially the Jewish ones. In which case one would be well within one’s rights to tell him he shouldn’t, and then to force him to stop if he persists.
But “Iran is ruled by law,” Stone protests in the interview. Indeed it is – sharia law. The Iranian morality police patrol the streets enforcing Islamic modesty on anyone sporting Western-style haircuts or dress. Adulterers are stoned there. Gays – even teenagers – are hanged – enabling Ahmadinejad to claim this about homosexuality: “In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon.” But perhaps sharia, like Ahmadinejad, is just misunderstood. And hey, who are we to tell the mullahs how to rule their country?
When the Iranian people themselves tried to have a say in how their country was being run, during the Green Revolution of 2009, the regime brutally suppressed them, killing its own people and raping imprisoned protesters. Sean Stone’s take on this? “People don’t like Ahmadinejad, but that doesn’t warrant a war or an uprising.” He urges patience instead:
Time evolves everything. Time will bring revolution. Iran will change, but never by military force or being pushed.
For a “very international-minded” guy who studied history at Princeton, Stone is remarkably uninformed about how despots are removed from power. It is almost always necessary to remove them by military force or being pushed, since they tend not to relinquish power simply out of the goodness and generosity of their own hearts.
Iran arrested filmmaker Jafar Panahi and banned him from making films because he criticized the regime. Another Iranian filmmaker, Mazdak Taebi, has been banned from Iran because of his anti-regime statements. Presumably Stone thinks these filmmakers are overreacting and should have waited for the regime to evolve at its own pace. “This is insulting,” Taebi said of Stone’s willful blindness. “So many people have died. People there are shaking. They’re scared. It’s a police system.”
Stone said that while in Tehran, he saw graffiti that read, “Death to America.” This seems like a rather straightforward declaration, but Stone’s interesting theory is that it was not meant to be taken literally. “Because it’s emotional,” he explained. “It doesn’t have the meaning you think it does. It’s not political expression.” He didn’t elaborate on what other meaning “Death to America” could possibly have, but he was quick to dismiss Americans who question his pro-regime interaction. “That’s stupid. There should be cultural dialogue with every country,” he said.
That sounds great in principle, but Stone is the ignorant one – the United States has been attempting to carry on a dialogue with the intransigent Iranian regime for decades – even during the years when George W. Bush was decried for his supposed lack of diplomacy. Iran is interested in dialogue with other countries only as a delaying tactic to keep them from interfering with its power-aggrandizing agenda. And Iran is interested in the work of only those filmmakers who are willing to publicly whitewash its domestic crimes and international acts of war.
Moving on to his own agenda, Stone declared, "I would like to introduce Persian culture and civilization to the West” through his future films. He could start by re-introducing Persian culture to the Muslim fundamentalists who rule the country, as Islam has a habit of obliterating the indigenous culture of any land it conquers. Since the Khomeini revolution of 1979,
’s Islamic theocracy has waged a systematic campaign of wiping out any trace of pre-Islamic Persian cultural heritage, including archaeological sites. Iran
If Sean Stone truly cared about Persian culture, he would protest the regime’s erasure of it, as well as the violent suppression of the people suffering under its thumb. Or he can simply follow in his father’s footsteps and serve as another useful
(This article first appeared here at FrontPage Mag, 9/19/11)