Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has come under fire from Islamist hardliners for authorizing a biographical film about a female motor racing champion, according to a recent report by The Telegraph.
During his annual trip to New York for the U.N. general assembly, Ahmadinejad met with Iranian-born director Essy Niknejad and gave him the permission to produce the biopic about Laleh Seddigh, who beat her male competitors to become the Islamic Republic’s rally champion in 2005.
The film project, title “Laleh,” is meant to counter negative stereotypes about Iran in the Western cinema by showing how a woman in Islamist Iran can perform realize her dreams without major social hurdles.
Seddigh is referred to as “the little Schumacher” and is admired by those who see her as struggling against the alleged exclusion of women in a male-dominated society.
Hossein Shariatmadari, editor-in-chief of Keyhan newspaper – widely thought to reflect the views of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blasted the film project as “a patent insult to Iranian Muslim women” that played into the west’s hands.
“Is the symbol of Iranian Muslim women a girl who takes part in international rally races?” he wrote
“Is participation in rally racing really a sign of modernity? Aren’t these symbols exactly the same ones that the U.S. and its allies wish for Iran and didn’t the Islamic revolution put an end to this wish? Why should we spend from the nation’s pocket to fulfill the destructive patterns and gone-with-the-wind fantasies of the Wild West?”
He also accused Niknejad of making “obscene sex films” in Hollywood, referring his role in the production of “The Red Shoe Diaries,” an erotic drama series that aired on the American cable television network Showtime from 1992 to 1997.
Other opponents of the film, including cinema directors, question the $400 financial budget allocated for project. In Iran, it is very rare when such a large budget is given to the production of a film.