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Avicenna in Hollywood and on ifilm screen; which representation closer to reality

As Hollywood has depicted great Iranian scholar Avicenna in the flick ‘The Physician’, you may wonder how such representation is different from what you see on ifilm series ‘Avicenna’.

When the Iranian series ‘Avicenna’ was in the making decades ago, no one ever thought that Hollywood could come up with such a fake version in a 2013 feature titled ‘The Physician’.

Nowadays, the viewers, however, know for a fact that Hollywoodism is in full swing, distorting realities and historical facts of nations with no holds barred.

In this regard, Iran is a special case and whatever- even loosely- related to this country is represented in Hollywood with a false narrative. ‘The Physician’ movie by Philipp Stölzl is a case in point.

First and foremost, the so-called historical movie expresses a skeptical view of religion’s role in history. This is while ifilm series ‘Avicenna’ shows the great influence of religion on the Muslim physician (see the video attached to see how he prays in the series).

The hearty historical epic by Iranian director Keihan Rahgozar depicts the key figure -  known as the founding father of modern medicine in the world - based on documented historical facts, highlighting the role of Avicenna in medicine.

Nevertheless, ‘The Physician’ moves a Westerner played by Tom Payne to the forefront of modern medicine, downplaying the role of Avicenna in history.

Even the make-up and costume design of actor Ben Kingsley chosen for the role of Avicenna was so unattractive that you can be highly skeptical of a ploy when comparing the appearance of the main character in the Iranian series with its Western counterpart.  

Avicenna was a prominent 11th-century Iranian philosopher, scientist, and physician. In the Iranian series, he treated a leading politician of his time who was apparently poisoned by his three sons.

Such an account was excluded in the Hollywood movie as the flick just shows king Shah Ala ad-Daula played by Olivier Martinez with little reference to the fact that Avicenna is closely in contact with this key figure due to his phenomenal expertise in medicine.  

In the official trailer of 'The Physician', the introduction of the actor who played Avicenna comes last on the list of stars, which shows another subtle backgrounding of the Iranian Muslim scholar (see the attached video).  

Last but not least, the director’s futile quest is more focused on showing ignorance as a product of religion, and that the resistance comes from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders alike. Though in ‘Avicenna’ series, religion is truly highlighted as an important cause for the advancement of medicine and reducing the physical pains of human beings.

In any case, when religion comes to improve the psychological well-being of people by preaching the good news of human eternity, how can it be against alleviating their physical suffering?

Read more:

Avicenna actor is ugly in ‘The Physician’: Iranian historian


Nasreen Khanum Zahida

As a Muslim I think that we need to enjoy more and more shows like this. I think we can depend only on Iran for getting that. This our very very valuable history.