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Hollywood Diplomacy?

American actresses Annette Bening (right) and Alfre Woodard (left), wearing headscarves, attend a workshop with Iranian actresses Fatemeh Motamed Aria (2nd-left) and Bahareh Rahnama (2nd-right) at the House of Cinema in Tehran
Iranian officials have often condemned Hollywood for making "anti-Iranian" movies, yet they did issue visas for a top-level team from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to spend a week in Iran.

The AFP news agency reported:

"I can confirm that a group of Academy members...are currently in Iran" on a "completely private initiative for educational and creative exchange and with no political agenda," AMPAS director of communications Leslie Unger told AFP.

She confirmed Iranian media reports saying the delegation included AMPAS president Sid Ganis, former president Frank Pierson, actress Annette Bening and producer William Horberg."

The Academy group did receive visas and is currently in Tehran," Unger said.

Iranian media said the AMPAS group would hold a series of meetings Saturday and Sunday in Tehran."

The Hollywood team was invited by Iran's House of Cinema. The director of the House of Cinema, Mohammad Mehdi Asgharpour, has said that the group will discuss screenwriting, directing, acting, and filmmaking at meetings. A press conference is planned on March 7. Watch out for pictures of Annette Bening with a veil.

Iran's moderate "Etemad Melli" newspaper has called the trip a "surprising incident," adding that it seems that the presence of the Hollywood team in Iran is an opportunity to show the real Iran and encounter the wave of "anti-Iranian Hollywood movies."

The trip comes amid growing speculations about the future of U.S.-Iran ties and lots of hope among Iranian citizens that they change.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

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