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If you are one of the many hooked on new media coverage of the trumoil in Iran, take my advice and take a break from the computer screen for 90 minutes Monday night at 9 for Iran and the West premiering on the National Geographic cable channel.

Covering more than 30 years of Iranian political history, it offers in one TV stop more background and context on today's tumultuous post-election events than can be found anywhere else in old or new media. I know, background and context is not so valued in the new media ethos, but, believe me, it still matters if you want to try and understand what's happening in Iran today.

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This engrossing and information-packed documentary will also send you back to the digital world after the final credits roll far more capable of making sense out of all the raw and unfiltered images and reports hitting the Web.

The more than 40 interviews in the film range from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to one-time Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the man now at the very center of the protests and crackdowns in Iran.

In re-telling the story of 30 years ago when Muslim students took 53 Americans hostage for 15 months in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the filmmakers interview Ibrahim Asghharzadeh, one of the leaders. He not only offers a reviting description of events from a point of view most Americans have never heard, he also fingers one of the other student leaders who refused to take part in the protests over ideological differences: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the man whose dubious re-election set off the current protests.

The interviews with Carter and Madeleine Albright, President Bill Clinton's secretary of state, are also revelatory in how much they reveal about America's ignorance about Iran -- and at our government's highest levels.

Timely hardly starts to describe this documentary. Three cheers for National Geographic. Don't miss it.

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