Greenbelt Interfaith News

    March 1998

    Zoroastrians Criticize Horror Film Featuring Their Religion
    By Roshan Rivetna
    FEZANA Journal (Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America)

    "Blasphemy," "Sue them," "Demand an apology," "Withdraw the film," and other calls of outrage were the Zoroastrian reaction to the release of the film Wishmaster on the big screen in the theaters in the USA and Canada this past September. According to the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America (FEZANA), Zarathushtis are incensed at the central role of the "the God Ahura Mazda" and the use of Zoroastrianism in the story-line of Wishmaster, a B-rated, horror film dealing with evil and sorcery.

    The film starts in a sorcerer's room with some familiar Eastern items such as a "golabas" (rose-water sprinkler) and other items from western magical origins. A magician comes and makes a potion of powders mixed with blood, and from that makes a jewel. The scene suddenly shifts to "Persia 1127 AD" there are scenes of people dying horribly, and thence to the king's palace with a backdrop of reliefs of Persepolis.

    The film jumps to modern-day San Francisco where a crated "statue of the pre-Islamic God, Ahura Mazda" is being shipped to a museum. The statue breaks, and the gem containing the evil "djin" is stolen. Eventually the scene shifts to the museum to "A room of lost gods." The antique dealer points to a place set for the missing statue with a plaque which reads, "Ahura Mazda."

    The dialogue continues that this god was a "pre-Islamic monotheistic deity" that was good, but it had a shadow that was evil. This evil lived between two creations, the underworld and the earth. Using this as a crutch, the producer portrays the jewel in the statue as the embodiment of evil that caused havoc.

    Perhaps the most disturbing blow for Zoroastrian viewers was in the credits, where Zoroaster, played by Ari Barak, is listed first, implying that the first character that appeared in the movie, the sorcerer, was the Zoroastrians' prophet.

    Dolly Dastoor, president of FEZANA, responded to the film with letters to the US distributor of Wishmaster, Live Theatrical Distribution, and to the Canadian distributor of the film, Everest Entertainment.

    In her letter, Dr. Dastoor said, "Perhaps if your script writer had done some background research about the religion, it would have been apparent that the Zoroastrian religion is the oldest revealed religion propounded by the prophet Zoroaster, about 1800 BCE in Iran, which made huge innovations in religious thought, extolling the worship of one God Ahura Mazda. This religion was the state religion of three mighty Persian Empires, for over a 1000 years, namely the House of Achaemenians, Parthians and the Sassanians. Zoroaster's name was familiar to Plato and Aristotle. . . .

    "Zoroastrianism is a living religion, with over 3,000 years of continuous history, which has influenced the evolution of world religious thought significantly. However, the movie has equated the religion with a cult! Not only has it twisted our beliefs and doctrines with witchcraft and presented them as Satanism, it has created a statue of our God Ahura Mazda, and has made our prophet Zoroaster into the high priest of that Satanic cult.

    "What this movie has done is far worse than desecrating Jewish graves and synagogues by painting swastikas on them."

    Dr. Dastoor requested that the distributors withdraw the movie from all theaters in North America.

    Alayer Dabestani, the owner or 15 theaters in the US and Canada, also wrote to the distributors, informing him that he would not be playing the film at his theaters. "I am not here to censor your film and I definitely believe in the right to freedom of speech; however, such exercises in the rights of freedom should be based on actual facts," he said in his letter.

    "As we are all aware," he continued, "people are often guided, or misguided in this case, by what they read in the papers and see on television or on the big screen. It is often what people see that determines how they feel about certain people.

    "The Zoroastrian religion is not that well-known outside our community. It is somewhat of a mystery to most. Having your film, up on a big screen, filled with all sorts of information on our religion will solve the 'mystery' for most people. The problem is, your information is wrong.

    "When people walk out of the movie theater after seeing your film, they are going to have a completely distorted view of the religion. Based on what they have seen, a prejudice will be born. The damage done by the unresearched facts displayed throughout this film will be far-reaching. Some may be irreparable."

    This article was revised by Greenbelt Interfaith News from its original form, with permission of FEZANA and the author.

    HOME March 1998 Index