Production of a new film entitled Mona’s Dream, is due to commence in October this year, commissioned by director Jack Lenz. This potentially controversial film examines the story of Mona Mahmudnizhad, her father and her companions who were captured, interrogated, tortured and murdered by the Iranian government because of their Bahá’í faith in Iran, 1983. It is an attempt by the director, Jack Lenz, to give Mona a voice; to portray her strength, conviction of faith, and serenity in the face of religious persecution and death. It draws into focus the problems of repressive regimes and governments, and attempts to bring justice and unity to those who suffer and die for their religious beliefs. The Film is expected to be completed and released in March 2009.
Read the full article in the Independent
By Henry Munson , University of Maine
(Vol. 3, June 2008)
By DENIS MACEOIN
From A New Handbook of Living Religions
I would like to see some research done recently on the Hollywood treatment of religious groups and the portrayal of those groups’ message of concern about social conditions.
I am not too hopeful about the way Mona’s story will be handled. Have you seen Mel Gibson’s 2 movies, Apocalypto, and Passion of Christ? Do you see how faithfully he believes that a strong dose of HARDCORE violence is necessary to get the box office returns in the US? Secondly, is he subtle? Does he practice the art of suggesting or does he insist on repeat a simple aspect over and over? Third, does he think screen characters can be complex or well rounded to achieve the same ends?
Usually the final decision rests with the guy who pays the bills, he calls the shots, because its his money. You can see Mr. Gibson’s outlook and the way he likes to frame social issues. Yes, he can tell a story and create a visual impact. He has a polished technique, and he gets a good performance from his actors. But I feel from these the two examples I have mentioned, Apocalypto, and the Passion of Christ, that he is too influenced by the current obsession with: a) action for the sake of action, pursuit for the sake of pursuit, b) an escalating dose of violence that seems to requires ever higher and higher doses to get the same high (box office returns on his chosen genre). The issues I have mentioned distort, this viewer’s concentration on whatever other message he is trying to say. For example: the parallels to the novel, Lord of the Flies, I found in Apocalypto seem intentional but I could not think about them while being overwhelmed by horrific, focus on human sacrifice, and man’s depravity towards man.
I n regard to the overall perspective on what art is supposed to inspire, to make us think, or to teach us a new perspective with humor about our current social conditions, I found that missing in Mr. Gibson’s two productions. In modern developed society, a movie is a team product that utilizes a wide variety of tools and modes of expression. So it is hard enough to get all of these elements in sync to produce a memorable film, one that would be considered worth seeing again in 20 years.
As for the future, in this upcoming development of Mona’s Story. I would hope that the Islamic system, the clergy system is explored in a somewhat systematic way leading up to her trial. I would like to know how these clergy are shaped socially and politically and religiously. This leads to the unique way that the government is bonded constitutionally and politically with the current Iranian government. What are the implications for the society into the future?. Secondly regarding Shia Islam, I think it would be valuable to understand the way the branch of Islam feels about a homegrown offshoot of Islam that Bahai represents. I have heard over and over by Iranians that Bahai is a political movement. So, why is this so easy to believe? What does this belief say about both the success of the government/clergy in branding the people’s thinking processes. I think these topics in leading up to and the afterwards of Mona’s trial very interesting and insightful for Westerners in understanding contemporary Iran. Actually all these topics could be done without hardly mentioning the heroism of this girl and the other women. This reminds me of a third concern; one of the cardinal rules of Hollywood, KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. For example we should prepare ourselves for 90 min. of Mona, the mullas will be cardboard villains without any depth, the other women arrested will make cameo appearances. And the beauty, heroism, saintliness, and probably sexiness, of the youngest member of this group of women, Mona, will be hammered over and over and…
I apologize for all this writing. I am fairly concerned about the production, and pessimistic about its eventual presentation. In Japanese, where I live, we say, “Sho ga nai” It can’t be helped.
I recently received the following email friom the producer of the upcoming movie, Jack Lenz:
The erroneous mention of Mel Gibson has now been removed from the post.