I really enjoyed the fear and paranoia that was captured in the film as the Iranian Revolution comes into play. As Malcom X would say “the chickens have come home to roost” as the US felt the full impact of the overthrow of the Shah in 1953.
How did the overthrow of the Shah drive the US hostage crisis?
Well, not only did the US organize a CIA plot to overthrow the legimate Prime Minister at the time, they backed the Shah using the brutal secret police Savak, which was trained by the CIA. So the Iranian citizens had suffered decades due to this bad policy decision at the height of the Cold War.
How accurate was the film?
Well, like any good Hollywood film the plot was tweeked a bit to increase the cliff hanger suspense. They did use as much of the real events as possible to capture the public hatred of the US and how the hostages suffered because of this. The film skims over coming of the Ayatollah because of time constraints as well. All in all I think it was a great capture of a historical event.
For people of my generation, we had no idea that there was a Canadian Caper as the operation was called to get out some of the hostages. I only knew of the bungled US helicopter rescue that led to Iran dividing up the majority of the hostages and increasing the impossibility of a repeat of the failed mission to fly them out.
How has Iran responded?
Great question. There is the official and unofficial response. The official government line was to say it was highly inaccurate and begin filming their own version of the event, which shows how weak the regime is in the use of the propaganda and how crucial the US hostage crisis was at demonstrating the power of the regime to its own public.
The unofficial on the street response is a complete runaway success of black market versions of the film with subtitles in Farsi (the main language of Iran).
Why does the Iranian public respond so well to a film portraying them as the enemy?
One reason that the film was a smash hit in Iran is that the film is done intellectually and portrays the humanity of each side well. Its the complete opposite of such films like “Team America” by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. I love that film, but it is the typical simplification of US policy abroad, which resonates with a western audience only.
I think that Ben Affleck as director went out of his way to explain the 1953 coup in the beginning of the film, which was the reason the initial Iranian response to the US hostage crisis was so positive and cemented the power of the Imans in politics. As the decades have passed, the Iranian public has realized the same terror tactics used against the US Embassy staff is now being used against the public.
What are those tactics?
In the recent 2009 reelection of President Ahmadinejad, the public was outraged at the voter fraud and started protesting the results. The regime responded by attacking schools with motorcycle gangs with chains and even shooting civilians. The shooting of Neda became the martyr face of the green movement protest.
Have you decided to paint on the subject?
I recently completed the painting “444 Con” about the US hostage crisis as a whole rather than the focus of Argo on the Canadian Caper. As a painter, you only get one image, so I take on the whole perspective of the Ayatollah, who likley could have ended the crisis at any time, but milked it for all the political value to cement his power over other political groups vying for power. The US flag has various symbols of the revolution and historical themes leading up to the revolution in 1979.