After "Argo" claimed the Oscar for Best Picture
, Iranian officials dismissed the Academy Award winner as a pro-CIA, anti-Iranian piece of propaganda. Now Iran is trying to shape how the film is perceived there.
"Argo" has not been shown in any movie theaters there, and yet many Iranians have seen it anyway. Bootleg copies of the film sell for about 30,000 Iranian rials, or less than $1. Younger, more moderate Iranians welcomed the film as a new way to see the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
"Argo" focuses on that revolution, centering on the escape of six American hostages from the U.S. embassy in Tehran, and the Iranian government is sensitive to Western retellings of that effort.
According to the Islamic Republic News Agency, Seyed Muhammad Hosseini, Iran's minister of culture and Islamic guidance, claimed that “It doesn’t contain any artistic values.” Hosseini spoke at the 10th anniversary of the Fars News Agency, Iran's state-sanctioned news source.
“We must create movies in which we can explain to other people the truth related to Iran’s hostage crisis,” he said.
Iran has also implied that Michelle Obama's involvement in the Oscars ceremony was an act of endorsement by the Obama administration for the film
. Hosseini added it was a "political act more than anything else."
"The movie is an anti-Iran film. It is not a valuable film from the artistic point of view. It won the prize by resorting to extended advertisement and investment," Hosseini said, according to the Al Monitor.
Ben Affleck, the film's director, in an interview with The Associated Press, said he felt glad that he had created something that the Iranian authorities needed to respond to.
One Iranian teacher, Reza Abbasi, who saw the Iranian revolution firsthand, told the Christian Science Monitor that the film was realistic.
"I know Hollywood usually changes reality to make it attractive for movie lovers, but more or less it was close to the realities then," Abbasi said.
Indeed, the film's real-life counterparts had spoken out about some aspects of the film, including the final scene when the hostages leave the country with passports issued by the Canadian government. The film keeps the tension mounted until the last minute, with the six escaping hostages almost getting caught. Mark Lijek, one of the six diplomats who escaped, said the final scenes weren't 100 percent on par with reality.
"It's true there could have been problems with documentation — it was our biggest vulnerability," Lijek told the BBC. "But the agency had done its homework and knew the Iranian border authorities habitually made no attempt to reconcile documents. Fortunately for us, there were very few Revolutionary Guards about. It's why we turned up for a flight at 5.30 in the morning; even they weren't zealous enough to be there that early."
"The truth is the immigration officers barely looked at us and we were processed out in the regular way. We got on the flight to Zurich and then we were taken to the US ambassador's residence in Berne. It was that straightforward."
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