Holocaust miniseries captivates Iran, shatters stereotypes

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, has famously questioned the historical veracity of the Holocaust. It is surprising, therefore, that the biggest new hit in Iran is a miniseries about World War II sympathetic to the Jewish plight.The popular show “Zero Degree Turn” opens with Jews being ushered into vehicles bound for concentration camps before a crowd of onlookers. The Jews, including a young boy and an elderly couple, walk to their fates as sad music underscores the tragic events.Written and directed by Hassan Fathi, a well known Iranian Director, the 22-episode miniseries tells the love story between Habib Parsa, a handsome Iranian diplomat, and a French Jew, Sara Stroke. Parsa, played by famous Iranian actor Shahab Husseini, helps her escape to Iran using falsified documents. Interestingly enough, when we first see Sara, just before she flees Paris, her long brown hair is fully visible. This is a novelty in a country where women traditionally cover their hair with headscarves, especially on state-run television.The show is the most expensive ever produced on Iranian television, according the Wall Street Journal Web site. The price is evident in the realistic costumes, European settings and polished production.According to the New York Times, the show aims to draw a distinction between Jews and Zionists. By attracting viewers to the gripping drama, the state can subtly exert widespread influence on citizens’ political views.Whether or not the show actually aims to promote some kind of distinction between innocent Jews and a Zionist minority remains to be seen. What can be seen, however, are the previously aired episodes on Youtube, in Farsi with English subtitles. Check out the first ten minutes of the mini-series at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQnlAerDSj0.