We've Got Hollywood Covered

Iran’s Never-Ending Movie

You think Hollywood has made an art form of telling the same story a hundred times over and cashing in on it every time? Releasing one remake after another to a rapt audience worldwide?

At least Hollywood offers more than one worn, second-hand scenario at a time. The government of Iran has been playing the same movie — “Hostage-Evin prison” — for 30 years and is still going strong.

It’s the kind of horror flick that makes you groan the minute you see the previews: because you know you’ve seen it before, at least a dozen times already, and that you will nevertheless go back and see it again; because it has the potential to be even more frightening, or gory, or plain old stupid than any of the others; because, finally, you just can’t bring yourself to abandon the one blonde teenage girl who survived the last round of carnage only to fall into a new trap this time.

So it was with the latest episode of high-profile hostage taking in Iran: Roxana Saberi, arrested and charged for an ever-changing crime we all know she didn’t commit, tried and sentenced in a monkey court, then released.

The mullahs were flexing their muscles; or Ahmadinejad has an election coming up and used Saberi — an agent of the Great Satan — as a diversion from his own problems with the electorate; or the government is pissed off that Obama is so popular with the people of Iran.

It could be any of those things, or all of them at once. She could have been an embassy worker, or a Jew, or a human rights activist. She could be an international cause celebre, or some unfortunate clerk in a newspaper office. She might be released unharmed after a few months, or raped and tortured and buried in an unmarked grave.

Nothing bad will surprise you from that studio, and nothing good will bring a significant level of relief because the one thing that you know for sure is that, no matter what happened this time, the sequel’s already in the making.

Gina Nahai is the author, most recently, of "Caspian Rain." She teaches creative writing at USC.