Sean Stone, son of Oliver, seems like a chip off the old block.
Fresh off the plane from Tehran, the famous filmmaker's son defended Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an interview this weekend and supported Iran’s right to a nuclear program as a defense against threats from Israel.
The 26-year-old is a documentary filmmaker met exclusively with TheWrap at the Toronto Film Festival, offering some unconventional views.
Criticizing the Iranian government is “like someone coming to your house and saying the father shouldn’t hit the kids,” he said. “Who are we to tell them how to rule their country?”
“Iran is ruled by law,” he said. “People don’t like Ahmadinejad, but that doesn’t warrant a war or an uprising.”
Sean’s father, Oliver Stone, has often been a controversial political iconoclast, befriending Cuban leader Fidel Castro and anti-American Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
Stone spent a week on Tehran (photo above of Stone with coproducer Melissa Carter in Tehran) launching a new co-production company to make movies based in Iranian history and culture.
Meanwhile, in Tehran on Sunday Ahmadinejad gave a speech marking the anniversary of 9/11 by repeating the conspiracy theory that the attacks were orchestrated by the U.S. as a pretext for war.
But Stone said that Ahmadinejad has often been misunderstood.
“He did come to America to extend a hand. And there’s a lot of mistranslation, literally, I’ve seen it. Ahmadinejad will say something and it will be mistranslated,” he said. “A lot of this is bullshit, mistranslation. It’s an aggressive attitude on both parts, mostly on the American side.”
Stone, who studied history at Princeton, said that Iran should certainly have the right to a nuclear program.
“Israel has nuclear weapons, Iran has the right to them,” he said. “Every nation has the right to self determination for defense."
Stone said he wants to make films in Iran, “because they’re the biggest filmmakers in the Middle East, I’m very international-minded” and the opportunity arose through some personal connections.
Stone did not comment on the fact that Iran arrested filmmaker Jafar Panahi in the wake of the “Green Movement” street protests of 2009 and have banned him from making films because he has criticized the regime.
Stone was at the film festival to launch a new online company, FilmFunds, of which he is the CEO. A spokesman for the company said Stone's political views were personal and did not represent FilmFunds.
One Iranian filmmaker also at the festival expressed dismay when he heard of Stone’s views.
“This is insulting,” said Mazdak Taebi, who has been banned from travelling back to Iran because of his anti-regime statements. “So many people have died. People there are shaking. They’re scared. It’s a police system.”
Another Iranian filmmaker at the festival, who still lives in Tehran, declined to comment.
When driving around Tehran, Stone said he saw graffiti that read, ‘Death to America,’ but said it was not meant literally.
“Because it’s emotional,” he said. “It doesn’t have the meaning you think it does. It’s not political expression.”
“You can engage in dialogue with that country. Time evolves everything. Time will bring revolution. Iran will change,” he added. “But never by military force or being pushed."
He swatted aside the idea that Americans might find his choice to work in Iran disloyal.
“I could care less if they think that. That’s stupid. There should be cultural dialogue with every country,” he said.