Articles & Notes — May 11, 2012 at 11:34 am

Iranian revolution, hostages and Ben Affleck – bad timing?

Ben Affleck has had his ups and downs as an actor, however his latest directorial work titled “Argo” got me interested.

The film is based on a true story, a Canadian Caper that took place during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 and 1980.

As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist Tony Mendez concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.

His plan is to convince the Iranian government that they are a film crew scouting locations for a fictitious film entitled “Argo”, and organize the safe escape of  the hostages.

The Iranian hostage crisis went on for 444 days, shaking America’s confidence and sinking President Jimmy Carter’s reelection campaign.

Americans were soon haunted by the grim visage of Ayatollah Sayyed Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini – leader of the Iranian 1979 revolution, as well as  by well-armed Islamic militants who would parade blindfolded hostages across the nightly news and threaten trials for the “spies” that they’d captured.

52 Americans were trapped at the U.S. embassy and the failed rescue attempt a few months later that ended with a disastrous Army helicopter crash in the Iranian desert.

But not many know the long- classified details of the CIA’s involvement in the escape of the other group — thrust into a hostile city in the throes of revolution. and that’s the story Ben Affleck has decided to tell the world.

Affleck himself plays Tony Mendez, and some claim this part clearly does not fit him, but it is what it is.

The film has a great supporting cast – Alan Arkin, Tate Donovan, John Goodman, Clea DuVall, Bob Gunton, Victor Garber and Bryan Cranston. Not surprisingly, the film was mostly filmed in the U.S. and in Turkey, and not in Iran (I doubt Affleck and his crew would have been allowed anywhere near Tehran).

The trailer for the film looks interesting, and the film should be quite entertaining. One of the worrying issues here is the time, which is quite irrelevant for this kind of film.

This month of May is crucial and important for Iran, as this month Islamic Republic prepares to hold two talks in two different countries, regarding its nuclear program. First on May 13-14, Iran will host talks with the IAEA in Vienna, regarding Islamic Republic’s nuclear program and its technical aspects.

Then, on May 23, following the Istanbul meeting on April 14, Iran will once again meet with the “5+1” group (Britain, France, Russia, China and the United States plus Germany) to talk about a wide range of issues, including the nuclear issue.

So why bring up the 1979-1980 revolution in Iran to the big screen now? The screenplay for “Argo” was based on the 2007 Wired article “How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran” by Joshuah Bearman. Producers George Clooney, Grant Heslov and David Klawans set up a project based on the article in the same year, and Affleck’s attachment to the project was announced in February 2011.

It seems like people just stumbled on the interesting article, and decided to use it for a new film.

In a different case, it would have been usual, however here, it is a little different.

The currently hostile relations between the U.S. and Iran, which have deteriorated a lot since the Islamic Revolution days, and “possible military strike” talks still float around.

Releasing a film that centers on the same rather sensitive issue, might cause unexpected reaction from Iran.

The film will probably not be shown in Iran, firstly because of the film’s sensitive nature as was stated before. And another reason is much more simple – Iran considers Hollywood “evil”, and tries to limit its people from seeing particular films.

As for me, this is probably the first Ben Affleck film I am really interested in seeing. By the way, with that 80s look, Affleck really reminds me of cult Italian actor George Eastman.



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