Zero Degree Parallel

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Firouzeh Mirrazavi 

“Zero Degree Parallel” is the name of a television series which was aired on the Iranian television in 2007. Screenwriter and director of the series was Hassan Fathi and it is among television works which were produced based on humanitarian reasons to depict how Iranians helped Jews to escape Nazi extermination camps during the World War II. The screenwriter and director of the series has tried to tell the world that Iranians have always been kind to religious minorities throughout history and have paid due attention to their rights in line with their ideological viewpoints. Evidence to this was efforts made by some Iranian nationals living in Europe to save Jews from Nazi persecution and transfer them to Iran between 1935 and 1936. This was perhaps the reason for the international acclaim that the series received, especially now that any criticism of Jews and the Zionist regime will be responded with fierce reactions from Zionist groups and lobbies in Europe and the United States. They attack such criticism on grounds that they aim to promote anti-Semitism.

Hassan Fathi, screenwriter and director of the series says, “I got the idea from a true story which happened during the World War II and I wanted to prove to the world that the existing mentality towards Iranians is erroneous. During those years, many people could have helped Jews, but they did not do that for fear that they might be arrested. However, when some Iranians knew that they can save Jewish lives, they forgot their fear and due to their cultural characteristics as well as social customs and traditions, they tried to help the Jews. Let’s say that we are as sympathetic to Jewish victims of Nazi Germany as we are to Palestinian victims of Zionist regime. This is not a minority view, but is shared by most Iranian people.”

Hassan Beshkoufeh, the producer of the series, has noted that the series tried to view Jews through an Islamic viewpoint and prove that Islam’s approach to Jews, as a people having their own divine religion and book, is full of kindness and quite passionate. “On the other hand, Iranians have treated Jews kindly ever since the time of Cyrus the Great and the first charter of human rights compiled by Cyrus attests to that fact,” he said.

The director maintains that Zero Degree Parallel is a romantic story, which is retold within its own historical, political and social frameworks. Any work of art comprises a framework and what is inside it. In this case, the framework is the temporal and historical conditions of the World War II while the story of Zero Degree Parallel, which lies within that framework, indicates the director’s concerns about such concepts as love, crime, and loneliness, especially with regard to modern man.

Despite common speculations by international media, Hassan Fathi started writing the screenplay and directing the series in 2002, when the Holocaust had not been an issue in the Iranian society as it is today. He used some books and existing resources about historical events of that time (World War II) like the works of the French Muslim philosopher, Roger Garaudy: “History of an Apostasy” and “Trial of Freedom”. He says, “Production of the series had not been proposed to me. I came up with the plot and proposed it. It was very interesting for me that there were documents to show that Iranians had saved hundreds of Jewish lives during the World War II and in cities where even Europeans did not dare to do that. However, there are misunderstandings about the Iranian culture and they think that we are anti-Semitic. This is a big lie. We are not anti-Semitic and, as evidenced by history, have been a safe haven for many religious minorities. Our treatment of religious minorities has been always humane. Therefore, Iranians do not deserve to be judged so.”

Two general storylines can be found in this series. The first one is opportunism of Zionists during the World War II who used it to encourage immigration of Jews to Palestine with the second line being situation, government, and society of Iran after constitutionalism and under Reza Shah in addition to presence of foreign forces in the country. Therefore, the series has been successful to show kindness of Iranians toward the European Jews while paying due attention to aesthetic aspects as well as special effects to differentiate Jews, as a religious minority in the world, from Zionists, as a colonialist and racist political current dreaming of occupation of the whole Palestinian lands. The film progresses in such a way that as the finale moves closer, the viewers are introduced to the plot hatched by international Zionist organizations to usurp Palestine and take Jews there from everywhere. It also unravels covert ties between Nazi Germany and Zionist leaders to put more pressure on the European Jews and make them immigrate to Palestine.

On the whole, the following points constitute the main basis on which the director and screenwriter of Zero Degree Parallel has based his viewpoints:

  • To differentiate between Jews as a religious minority and the racist Zionist cult and to announce to the world that as Iranians sympathize with Palestinians oppressed by the Zionist regime, they extend the same sympathy toward Jewish victims of Nazi atrocities during the World War II.

Hassan Fathi says in this regard, “Zero Degree Parallel sympathizes equally with innocent Jews who fell victim to Nazi atrocities during World War II and Palestinians who have been victimized by Zionists.”

  • Existence of documents which show that there had been covert ties between Zionist leaders and the Germany Nazi Party and prove that both currents were in cahoots to expel Jews from Europe.
  • Sometimes, different cultures and civilizations affect each other through bilateral dialogue and understanding, so that people from both cultures or civilizations can coexist in peace.
  • Our modern world is not threatened by variety of cultures and civilizations, but by radical currents which are threatening the world nations. They include, especially, Zionists among Jews, neoconservatives among Christians, and groups like al Qaeda among Muslims. They form three sides of a triangle which is threatening the modern humanity.

The director of Zero Degree Parallel maintains, “My ideal goal behind making the series was to promote respect for global peace and friendship. We must take advantage of all means to get civilizations and religions close together. In the meantime, human love for human is the most important bounty that the Almighty God has bestowed upon humans to achieve peace and understanding. There are three major pillars which complement one another: respect, confidence, and dialogue.”

The central message of the television series is the message of peace, tranquility and understanding for the entire world. The two main characters symbolize different cultures, religions, and ideologies, which depict the ideals of the screenwriter and director of the series: more proximity of cultures, civilizations, and religions and establishment of peace and understanding among them.

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