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Argo sparks debate over historical accuracy

中国日报网 2013-01-18 10:27

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Iran's announcement that it will make its own film to counter the "distorted" thriller Argo is fueling a debate about Hollywood and historical accuracy, sparked by Ben Affleck's Oscar-tipped movie.

The film, which won the top two Golden Globes last weekend and is nominated for seven prizes at next month's Academy Awards, tells the story of a bold CIA operation to rescue six US diplomats trapped by the 1979 hostage crisis.

But it openly takes liberties with the facts. In a white-knuckle climax, for example, Iranian guards speed along a runway next to a plane carrying the escaping diplomats, threatening to stop it from taking off. That didn't happen.

Canada's role in giving refuge to the diplomats in Teheran, and securing their safe passage out of Iran, is significantly underplayed. The mission is seen as largely the work of CIA agent Tony Mendez, played by Affleck.

Mark Lijek, one of the six diplomats helped to freedom, said the actor-director is justified in massaging the facts to create a more compelling story - although he acknowledges some concerns.

"I understand it was necessary to dramatize the facts in order to create the atmosphere a thriller requires," he said after Argo won best picture (drama) and best director awards for Affleck at the Golden Globes.

The movie recounts the long-classified CIA plot to extract the diplomats by pretending that they are part of a Hollywood film crew scouting for locations for a science fiction flick.

In the film, they are given refuge by the Canadian ambassador to Teheran after escaping through a back exit as the US embassy was stormed by Islamist students, who went on to hold 52 US hostages for more than a year.

CIA agent Mendez - now in his 70s, and who spoke at last Sunday's Golden Globes ceremony - is shown flying in, giving the diplomats their false identities, and leading them through a series of close shaves to freedom.

These include a made-up scene in a Teheran market where they are surrounded by an angry mob but just escape with their lives, as well as a fake tense scene at the airport, and the fictional runway chase.

They are also shown holed up at the residence of the Canadian ambassador to Teheran, Ken Taylor. In reality they were split into two groups, one with Taylor and the others with another Canadian diplomat.

Taylor, now 77, has not kicked up a major fuss. But he has made his views clear regarding some aspects of the movie's accuracy.

"The movie's fun, it's thrilling, it's pertinent, it's timely," he told the Toronto Star. "But look, Canada was not merely standing around watching events take place. The CIA was a junior partner."

Days after Affleck's film won gold at the Globes, Teheran announced that it was making its own movie about the US hostage drama during the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"The movie is about 20 US hostages who were handed over to the US embassy by Iranian revolutionaries at the beginning of the (Islamic) revolution," said Iranian actor and filmmaker Ataollah Salmanian.

The film "can be an appropriate response to distorted movies such as Argo," he said.

(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

About the broadcaster:

Nelly Min is an editor at China Daily with more than 10 years of experience as a newspaper editor and photographer. She has worked at major newspapers in the U.S., including the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit Free Press. She is also fluent in Korean.

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