When Argo hit screens last fall the Iranian regime did not react like those protesting the Muhammad video, but they surely didn’t give it five stars. When Argo won the Academy Award for best picture of 2012, Iran’s Fars News denounced it as an “anti-Iran” film “produced by the Zionist company Warner Bros.” Iran didn’t like it that Michelle Obama made the presentation and didn’t care for Ben Affleck’s speech about Iranians living in “terrible circumstances.” Now Iran is escalating the conflict.
Iran plans to sue Hollywood over Argo because of the film’s “unrealistic portrayal” of the Iranian nation. Their chosen lawyer is Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who also represented Venezuelan terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, also known as Carlos the Jackal. Coutant-Peyre told reporters, “We will be able to block distributors of the movie, force them to apologize and challenge them to confess that the movie is nothing but a sheer lie.” That’s something of a stretch because Argo goes the second mile on the back story.
In documentary-style footage and commentary, Argo notes that Iran is part of a great Persian legacy, that duly elected Mohammed Mossadegh nationalized the oil business, and that in 1953 the USA and Britain engineered a coup and installed the Shah, portrayed as an evil man who tortures the people.
As the film notes, the Shah did fall ill and leave Iran in 1979, and president Jimmy Carter brought him to the United States. Then Iranian militants invaded the U.S. embassy in Tehran. All that is true, but Argo, though rich in detail, fails to capture the full ferocity. The Ayatollah Khomeini doesn’t get much screen time with his “Great Satan” charges, but viewers do understand that Iran was a dangerous place for Americans.
It was also true that six American embassy staffers got out by passing themselves off as Canadians making a movie. That did happen, but Argo does not convey the full extent of Canadian support. For example, it does not mention Prime Minister Joe Clark, who readily signed on to the exfiltration. Without Clark, there would have been no “Canadian Caper,” as it was called at the time. Iran only released the hostages when Ronald Reagan took over the presidency, but the movie does not show Reagan.
Argo shows an Iranian official warning that “Canada will pay,” but now the Iranian regime plans to sue not Canada but Hollywood, a place not exactly short on unrealistic portrayals. As Richard Grenier noted in The Marrakesh One-Two, Arab countries are not much like Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. As for sheer lies, consider Mission to Moscow, from Warner Brothers.
The 1943 movie was so indulgent of Stalin that it got dubbed “Submission to Moscow,” the first Soviet production to appear from a mayor American studio. The film supports Stalin’s charges that Zinoviev, Kamenev, and all the old Bolsheviks he executed were fascist agents. The Nazi-Soviet pact is not mentioned and the film justifies Stalin’s invasion of Finland. But the Finns and Poles did not sue Hollywood.
Disney made Night Crossing, based on an actual case of East Germans fleeing the Communist regime in a homemade hot-air balloon. The Honecker regime did not sue Disney. In Marathon Man, a U.S. government agent is in league with a Nazi war criminal, and one gets the feeling that octogenarian Nazis wield huge influence in the United States. But the U.S. government did not sue the filmmakers.
In virtually all Oliver Stone’s movies the USA is a villain, certainly so in his Untold History of the United States. Argo was a welcome change from that trend, but Iran plans to sue Hollywood, and that may be a good thing.
The lawsuit is unlikely to succeed but does confirm the intolerance of the Iranian regime that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls a “clear and present danger,” and which is now pursuing nuclear weapons. Charges that the movie is a “sheer lie” may prompt more people to see Argo, about as faithful a representation of what happened in Iran in 1979 as one could expect from the American commercial cinema.
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