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Khamenei Praises Controversial Film Targeting Intelligence Ministry

Iranian director, Abolghasem Talebi whose Golden Collars film alleged foreign infiltration into Iran's intelligence ministry. File photo

Iran's Intelligence Ministry has objected to the airing of a movie on the country's state-run TV, which alleged that foreign agents had infiltrated the ministry during mass unrest following the 2009 disputed presidential elections.

According to the ministry, the director of the movie, Abolghasem Talebi was a former agent who had been dismissed and his film is full of lies. The Intelligence Ministry had repeatedly warned the state TV not to run the movie but TV officials finally ignored the warnings, ISNA reported.

An Intelligence Ministry official told ISNA that the ministry had issued the same warning in previous years.

There are multiple intelligence organizations in Iran. The intelligence ministry works within the presidential administration, while the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, IRGC has its own intelligence units, in competition with the official ministry.

Iranian TV, controlled by the office of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, aired the Golden Collars while critics in 2009 had said the film distorted the reality of post-election unrest in Iran by portraying the protests as having been engineered by foreigners.

Nevertheless, Talebi says that the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei contacted him over the phone after the screening and thanked him for making the movie and conveyed his respect for the film's actors.

In a December 30 tweet, Talebi quoted Khamenei as having said "I watched your film once again. Bravo, Bravo, Bravo! Thank you and please give my respect to the actors."

In another tweet one day before the screening, Talebi said that an Intelligence Ministry official contacted him and told him that the ministry previously prevented the airing of the movie as it contained unfair allegations against the ministry's officials.

Following the screening, the ministry issued a statement, disclosed the film director's security background as an agent and said the Ministry did not expect him to distort the image of his former colleagues.

Several people were killed by security forces, and hundreds jailed during the post-election unrest in 2009, with several others arrested and still missing. The ministry's concern is that unfair treatment of the events in that year could potentially lead to sensitivities that would further fragment the Iranian society.

Islamic Republic officials call the aftermaths of the 2009 election "sedition". Many officials including Khamenei have attributed the unrest to foreign influences they have never proved, although prisoners were pressured to make "confessions" about the involvement of foreign elements in the protests and have used the forced confessions to further suppress protesters.

The controversial movie, Golden Collars, depicts foreigners' involvement in the unrest and their alleged infiltration into the Intelligence Ministry.

A deputy culture minister at the time had said that the government had "partly funded" the movie, however, the government investment was hefty and the budget allocated to the movie could have funded more than a few films at the time. The government was headed by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose disputed re-election was the reason for the unrest.

The official had also disclosed that a number of state officials were against the production and screening of that movie. The official, Javad Shamaghdari, pointed out that the film was finally made with the intervention of Khamenei's office.

Some film industry activists at the time protested the unfair allocation of funds for that movie but no one in the government paid any attention to grievances.

The film was aired on Ofogh channel of the state TV which is linked to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corp.

Talebi is not the only Iranian filmmaker who had links with the Intelligence Ministry. At least three other filmmakers have either spoken about the ministry's investment in their movies or have thanked ministry officials in the final credit titles or said in their interviews that the ministry offered consultations during production.