Sean Penn, boy reporter


The ever changing, ever sensitive Oscar winner, Sean Penn, on assignment for the San Francisco (naturally) Chronicle bravely told a film student during a visit to Iran's Film Museum in Tehran on Monday that the "Death to America" slogan chanted each week at Friday Prayers hurt Iran—U.S. relations.

"I understand the nature of where it comes from and what its intention is," he said. "But I don't think it's productive because I think the message goes to the American people and it is interpreted very literally."

Asked whether his idea about Iran had changed since arriving in the country, he said: "I hope my ideas are ever changing."

Undoubtedly he was impressed with Iranian democracy because a major Shi'ite cleric informed him

Rafsanjani, 70, a wily pragmatist who favors better ties with the United States, pointed out that Iran was fielding eight candidates for president —— a larger choice than American voters had at their polls in November.

"If the number of candidates is a proof of democracy, we are ... better than the Americans in this regard," newspapers quoted Rafsanjani as telling Penn.

Perhaps this negated an earlier incident when

security men briefly confiscated the small video camera Penn is using to record his travels at a protest rally about gender inequalities by some 300 women.

Authorities had sought to ban the protest and scores of police formed a tight ring around the demonstrators.

Talk of democracy should surely trump such pesky problems with women, especially among the Hollywood elite. 

Ethel C. Fenig    6 16 05