Or we can just send them training wheels and meet them at the border with Gatorade. -Tony Mendez
Ben Affleck’s film Argo (nominated for the Oscar’s Best Picture award) may be just a movie, but I call it a great propaganda piece for international relations, and, more specifically, a way to show that sometimes you just have to laugh at how ridiculous we human beings make life. When we think of governments, international cooperation, hostages, war, Iran, we don’t think of laughing. We don’t think of comedy, or a way out of a sticky situation that doesn’t involve guns and bloodshed. But Argo, which is based on the true story of how the Central Intelligence Agency got 6 trapped American embassy workers out of revolutionary Iran in 1979, is proof-historic proof- that we don’t need to turn to weapons and war to achieve our goals as a country. All we have to do is pretend we’re shooting a movie.
The fact that the Central Intelligence Agency pretended to be shooting a Hollywood movie in order to subtract the Stranded Six from the bloody Iranian Revolution is just… Unbelievable. Then again, as CIA operative Jack O’Donnell says, “it’s the best bad plan that we’ve got.” The alternatives, which included giving the Americans bikes and having them take a leisurely bike ride (unmolested, of course) to the Iranian border were even more implausible (as Tony Mendez, the CIA agent who came up with the Hollywood plan, shoots down). Mr. Mendez’s plan, which included flying him into Teheran pretending to be a producer scouting for his science fiction film Argo and flying out with his crew seemed almost possible for its sheer ridiculousness except for one thing: paperwork. Upon entering Iran visitors filled out two pieces of paper, one which was kept by the airport authorities until they left the country. One person’s paper missing is possible, but six people’s papers missing (especially six Canadians, which is what they pretended to be) wouldn’t go unnoticed by airport security.
(sourced from aceshowbiz.com)
(sourced from slate.com)
The film is dramatic and at the same time funny (thanks to the quips of the Hollywood men Mendez enlists to set up the fake movie production, lester Siegel and John Chambers). Ben Affleck did a wonderful job of maintaining historical accuracy, going so far as to painstakingly take actual images from 1979 and bring them back to life in the film (for example, a red crane use to hang a man seen in a grainy picture during the credits is the same crane the Stranded Six pass when they’re driving along in the bus Mendez rents). Why can’t Hollywood make more movies like this? It’s engaging and yet educational, a rarity in films today.
Normally I would have written about a film based on Iran with more of an Iranian bent, an eye on the Middle East. That would have been the center of my discussion, especially if the film centers on the Iranian Revolution (one of the most fascinating moments of the 20th century, in my opinion). But, watching the film, you don’t really get a sense of the Iranians. Yes, we see the protesters, we hear their demands being televised, we see them as the Stranded Six and Mendez tour a bazaar on the pretext of wanting to shoot there with a representative of the Ministry of Culture. I do not feel that Iran was the center of the film; the six could have been anywhere (it probably doesn’t help that the film was not made in the real Iran, either). This was a film, to me, about international relations. My husband asked me after the film,
“Is this movie supposed to drum up support for attacking Iran now?” I told him no, it’s not a government film, and if anything, the message of the film is that we can achieve our goals without resorting to violence. Yes, we could have marched the US army over there to get not just the six hiding in the Canadian embassy but also the hundred-plus held hostage by the Iranians. Yes we could have sent in a Navy SEAL team a la the Osama bin Laden raid (even though that happened recently).
Instead, we sent in one man, without weapons, to rescue six people. And not cause a scene while doing it. And he did it! Proof that you can solve a problem without anyone getting hurt (US government, did you forget this moment in our history?) The tensions between countries should not be allowed to escalate. We should realize that our problems are often completely man-made, and if we just think it out we can undo them. I do feel that perhaps Affleck shouldn’t have made the film because its like thumbing our noses at the Iranians (look what we did, under your nose!) especially at such a sensitive time (although apparently the CIA’s involvement was revealed back when Bill Clinton was in office).
Then again, perhaps we can have a dialogue with Iran through a film exchange. Iran is planning a response film, according to CNN, entitled ‘The General 20’ which will focus on 20 hostages that Iran gave over to the USA and will be based on ‘eyewitness’ account unlike Argo, which the Iranian Art Bureau views as a biased view not showing the whole story, meant to show ‘heroic’ American agents and ‘diabolical insane’ Iranians (ahem, the Iranian Islamic Revolution was pretty insane, did they forget how many people were/are tortured, killed and oppressed?! The USA is not innocent in it’s politics, but the Iranians are a bit worse I’d say) I look forward to seeing what the Iranians have to show. A government-made film sound completely unbiased, don’t you think?