An Iranian film director has apologised after actors promoting his movie and dressed as Islamic State fighters brought fake weapons to a Tehran shopping centre.
Footage posted on social media shows the men, armed with prop swords and machine guns, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”) at shoppers, stealing food and tipping over furniture.
Some of the actors also made their way through the shopping centre on horseback.
The film, Damascus Time, tells the story of an Iranian pilot who flies to Syria to help the locals escape a town besieged by IS fighters.
Isn't it the most stupid way of "advertisement" for a movie? disguising people like #ISIS marching with a horse in a mall to encourage people to watch "Damascus Time" by Ebrahim Hatamikia #Iran 😳🤨https://t.co/dE2vikhckz pic.twitter.com/N8kYksoMIJ
— ERSHAD ALIJANI (@ErshadAlijani) May 8, 2018
Director Ebrahim Hatamikia released a statement on his Instagram account and apologised to anyone frightened by the actors, saying he was unaware of the stunt.
“I thought a person with a red beard was going to stand outside the mall and let fans take selfies with him,” he said, according to the BBC.
I didn’t know there would be horses, screams and crowds inside the mall. The show was definitely beneath the dignity of my film.”
However the film’s producers Owj Arts and Media Organisation downplayed the incident, posting images of smiling shoppers taking photos with the actors in the shopping centre.
Other images show people crowding around the actor on horseback.
In an Instagram post, Owj spokesman Mohmmad Zoghi said it was no different to street advertising for American television shows like The Walking Dead, which had actors dressed as zombies push their hands out of grates to scare people in New York City.
“According to witnesses on Kourosh mall, all people were aware of this show, some of them were somewhat comical and interesting reactions,” he wrote on Instagram.
Owj reportedly has links with supreme clerical leader Ali Khamenei and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and has a history of controversy including organising anti-American billboards and Holocaust denial.
Tehran police chief Brigadier General Hossein Rahimi told Iranian student news organisation INSA that authorities were not away of the stunt.
“What happened in the Kourosh mall was against the law and it had not been coordinated with the police,” he said.