Thursday, March 21, 2013

'Argo' raises controversy in United States and Iran

By Kelli Breland, Guest Writer

Mention “historical” movies to an average group of college students, and you can count on a mixed bag of reactions. A few are instantly excited for an excuse to clock out and sleep through it, others are mildly attentive to the idea and some will show legitimate, serious interest.

But “Argo” — a new film based on the real events of the Iranian hostage crisis — has shattered the stereotypical mold that is characteristic to its genre.

Winning Oscars for “Best Picture,” “Best Adapted Screenplay” and “Best Film Editing,” “Argo” brings forth an almost unprecedented combination of history, drama and suspense.

In 1997, the CIA declassified the details of the events the film portrays.

On Nov. 4, 1979, Iranian revolutionaries stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the capital city of Iran.

Fifty-two Americans were taken hostage during the crisis, but six were able to escape to the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor.

Fearing it was only a matter of time before the revolutionaries discovered and captured the six hidden Americans, the CIA launched a risky rescue plan. Led by the top “exfiltration” specialist, Tony Mendez, the CIA created plans to film a fake movie — “Argo.”

Mendez then departed for Tehran undercover as a film producer scouting locations to film “Argo.” He contacted the six Americans seeking refuge with the Canadian ambassador and gave them forged travel documents and identities to assume as part of the “Argo” film crew.

From there, the rest of the story unfolds.

As this is a Hollywood adaptation of history, some amount of inaccuracy is inevitable. A recent article published in The Huffington Post, stated that one actual scene “wasn't there because director Ben Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio replaced it with an even more dramatic scenario.”

In an interview with NPR, Ben Affleck said the directing process is a struggle between "'the bookkeeper's reality and ... the poet's reality.’" Affleck said he judged it as acceptable to embellish or compress “‘as long as you don't fundamentally change the nature of the story and what happened.'"  

In Affleck’s defense, actual footage from the events in Iran is interwoven throughout the movie.

"'It’s a movie. I think most people understand this,’” Tony Mendez — the real Tony Mendez — said in a CNN interview.

“'There are a couple things that are different in real life. But on the whole, I think emotionally, the tone of the film, I think they did a pretty good job.'"

“Argo,” however, has raised international controversy, even with its historical inaccuracies documented and publicized.

Iran has announced plans for a lawsuit against “Argo,” claiming the film portrays Iranians in an irrational and unrealistic way.

Furthermore, Iran has recently claimed that it will fund a film in response to “Argo,” titled “The General Staff.” The release date of “The General Staff” has not been announced.