My reporting for Reuters:
A full-length animated film depicting an armed confrontation between Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the U.S. Navy is soon to open in Iranian cinemas, amid rising tensions over President Donald Trump’s hardening rhetoric against Tehran.
The director of the “Battle of Persian Gulf II”, Farhad Azima, said that it was a remarkable coincidence that the release of the film – four years in the making – coincided with a “warmongering” president sitting in the White House.
“I hope that the film shows Trump how American soldiers will face a humiliating defeat if they attack Iran,” Azima told Reuters in a telephone interview from the city of Mashhad in eastern Iran.
The 88-minute animation opens with the U.S. Army attacking an Iranian nuclear reactor, and the U.S. Navy in the Gulf hitting strategic locations across the county.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a powerful branch of the Iranian military, retaliates with full force, raining ballistic missiles on the U.S. warships.
“They all sink and the film ends as the American ships have turned into an aquarium for fishes at the bottom of the sea,” Azima said.
Trump has said he will not be as “kind” as his predecessor Barack Obama was to Iran, warning that military options are not off the table in response to Tehran.
He has called into doubt Western powers’ nuclear deal with Iran and, responding to an IRGC missile test last month, imposed fresh sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities, some of them linked to the Guards.
The main Iranian commander in the film has been intentionally depicted as Qassem Soleimani, the IRGC commander who is overseeing Iran’s military operations in Syria and Iraq against Islamist militants.
Azima said he sought to contact Soleimani to ensure he was not against his appearance in the film but did not receive a reply. However, senior figures close to Soleimani asked the director to keep the character but drop the name Qassem in the final edit.
“Hollywood has created many films against Iran; There are many computer games in which U.S. soldiers conquer our country. We made this film as an answer to that propaganda,” the 35-year old director said.
But unlike the massive resources available in Hollywood, he said, Fatima Zahra Animation Studios has a small team and a limited budget. He said they have received no funds from the government and are not linked to the IRGC.
“Our animators are not working for money, but for their beliefs and their love of the country. Thank God, everyone is surprised that we’ve managed to create such high-quality production under this poor condition,” he said.
He said screenings will begin as soon as the film gets the necessary permissions from the cultural authorities.
The film trailer has already created a buzz on social media, shared by thousands of people. The director believes young Iranians have shown interest to the film as “they want someone to show them power of their country.”