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Exploitation film generates serious political discussions


The Oscar-winning film “Argo” has generated a great deal of negative reviews. The most benign criticisms are those from film critics who question the embellishment of facts for entertainment. For example, they point out that the CIA had only a minor role in the escape plans and the airport interrogation and the final chase scene on the runway never occurred. The Americans left Iran via Mehrabad Airport with no incident; it wasn’t a cliffhanger at all. The most serious political criticisms come from three very distinct camps. Royalists question the brief narrative at the beginning of the film that attributed the Islamic Revolution to dictatorial tendencies by the Shah and American intervention in the country’s internal affairs. The narrative does have some inaccuracies, but it is by and large correct. Islamists, who participated in hostage-taking and have fallen out of favor with the current regime, fault the film’s depiction of them as brutal simpletons, with no regard for the rule of law. The third group, that supported the revolution initially but quickly lost interest when it led to the establishment of another dictatorship, fault the film for lumping Iranian people into one big, zombie-like, American-hating mob, with only a handful of exceptions. They criticize the film for not showing that the bulk of Iranians were also effectively held hostage by dogmatic power-grabbers who were just as intolerant of internal dissent as they were of foreign nationals. Even though I think that “Argo” is overrated, and has problems even as a fictional action thriller, I do welcome the political discourse generated by its receiving multiple awards.

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