Posted February 26, 2013
I saw the movie Argo a month ago. The film won the best picture of the year award at the 2013 Academy Awards. It was a production loaded with drama and American hubris that culminated in a monumental lie.
Unfortunately, the real story was distorted.
It portrayed CIA operative Tony Mendez, played by director Ben Affleck, as the key player in the escape of six American embassy personnel from Iran in 1979. When the U.S. embassy was stormed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard six U.S diplomats escaped and arrived at the Canadian embassy for sanctuary. More than 70 U.S. embassy personnel were captured and held as hostages.
When questioned before the Oscar win, Affleck said he did not want to make a movie that celebrated the Canadian diplomatic role in the escape of the cornered Americans. He said that a movie had already been made called “Escape from Teheran, the Canadian Caper”. He wanted to create a movie with an American slant that would excite U.S. audiences. He succeeded despite the facts being bent to such a degree that it is a filmmaking bonanza that will make millions for him and producer George Clooney.
Hey, it’s a good movie, exciting, suspenseful and moves at a rapid pace.
But little of it is true although it purports to be based on historic fact.
Suppose a Canadian filmmaker decided to do a movie based on the battle of The Little Bighorn and this time, Custer won. Can you imagine the outrage if that happened? Maybe it’s an idea whose time has come. General George Custer could be the grandfather of Superman. He possessed special powers to withstand arrows lances and axes as he turned the tide against the Sioux chasing them back to Canada. Who knows, there might be an academy award in it.
Affleck ran into opposition following the screening of Argo at the Toronto Film Festival last September. Former Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor protested that the Canadian role in the film was almost non-existent. Affleck promised to amend the ending to reflect the Canadian embassy’s actions in sheltering the Americans and the Canadian government’s role in producing fake Canadian passports and the flight out of Teheran.
Enter Affleck and his team of screenwriters. First, they needed an American hero. It was CIA agent Tony Mendez who, during the crisis of the invasion of the U.S. Embassy and capture of staff as hostages, was a minor player in the outcome of rescuing the six Americans. The reason was the volatile political situation in Iran during those dark days.
Think about it. How could an American CIA agent enter Iran with the hatred and animosity that prevailed during the Islamic revolution? What was his cover? Iran had unyielding hatred of anything associated with the United States because it gave sanctuary to the deposed and hated Shah.
Remember the abortive attempt of the U.S military to rescue the hostages? Don’t recall anything in Argo that mentioned that monumental disaster.
Today, those folks rescued by the Canadian embassy personal must feel somewhat embarrassed over Argo, because they know the truth was stretched to suit dramatic license.
This was entirely a Canadian show. The U.S. government could not, in any way acknowledge the existence of the holed-up American diplomats in the Canadian embassy. They were powerless.
So the Affleck crowd doesn’t allow the truth to get in the way of a great story. They manufactured one.
They took a book by Agent Mendez and fabricated an event about a Canadian film crew coming to Iran to recue the six U.S. diplomats. It was all about the money to support the American myth that they are the only good guys in the world.
This event, while historic and dramatic, cannot compare to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the perpetrator of the attack on the World Trade Towers in September 2011.
Oh yes, they made a movie, Zero Dark Thirty, about that episode. But it did not win the Oscar.
The problem here is how history is bent for personal financial gain.
I love movies. But that doesn’t make Argo right.
Yet the point is that great movies like The Longest Day, Saving Private Ryan and the Band of Brothers portrayed actuality that was missing with Argo. These recorded historical events of what happened had plenty of dramatic license yet maintained truthfulness.
Shame on Ben Affleck and George Clooney to misrepresent the truth ignoring the role those brave Canadian diplomats played in this dramatic event. Is this the measure of effectiveness in war or storytelling? Is this how we judge our neighbours?
Maybe Canada, only 34 million strong, is not box office.
Don’t call us we’ll call you.