"It sure is a great country…"But, but, but… where's the enthusiasm?!
The welcome given Michael Moore's flick is much different in "Axis of Evil" countries (both present and former members) than it is in countries whose citizens delight in mocking and castigating America for George W Bush's Axis of Evil speech.
Cinemagoers in the Iranian capital were given their first glimpse of Fahrenheit 9/11 this week, but appeared to enjoy more the rare chance to watch an American movie than its assault on their regime's arch foe George W. Bush.
Michael Moore's Bush-bashing polemic may have cruised through Iran's unforgiving censors thanks to its indictment of US policy, but the premiere of the film also had the side effect of making some viewers relate the same questioning to their own state of affairs.
"The authorities obviously gave the film the green light for political reasons, in that anything against the United States must be good," quipped one of the hundreds of mainly young people who flocked to Tuesday night's opening screening.
The prize-winning documentary has been allowed out on release here [in Tehran] to coincide with the third anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States — which kicked off a chain of events that has seen Iran surrounded by US troops and lumped into an "axis of evil".
"They are showing this film to erase from our minds the idea that America is the great saviour," said Hirad Harandian, another cinemagoer at the uptown Farhang cinema. …
On Tuesday night the film was sold out and the theatre packed with close to 380 people, most of them young. Many admitted they were just out to watch an American film, and not that one in particular.
…Sima Gharavi, a 24-year-old dressed in a short bright blue coat rather than the more conservative all-black attire … hastened to complain that "out of all the films people would love to see, the authorities had to go for this one — just because this film is in line with the view of the Islamic regime."
And despite sporadic laughs here and there, most of Moore's sardonic humour appeared to fall flat. The end of the film was also greeted with some half-hearted clapping.
"The problem is the subtitles," said Sogol Zand, an English teacher. "The jokes are not as funny."
Others, obviously out for a rare taste of Hollywood entertainment, disagreed.
…[Even though a twenty-something man] quipped in to say he was "disappointed" by the film and asserted "politics is not as important" for Iran's younger generation, he did envy Moore's position.
"It sure is a great country, where someone like Moore trashes the president and gets away with it — and makes so much money!" he laughed.
Another woman said she was impressed with the scene where Moore chases US congressmen to ask them if they would send their children to Iraq.
"How many top officials here sent their offspring to fight in the Iran-Iraq war?" asked the woman, one of several who directed their frustrations at Iranian authorities — and not President Bush.
(Thanks to Gregory Schreiber)