It looks like Ben Affleck will not be receiving any congratulatory phone calls from Iran today, after the media there dismissed his film's triumph at the Academy Awards as "Hollywood insiders sacrificing quality and artistic cinema to political slogans and distortions."
Ever since it was released last fall, the Iran's numerous official media arms have routinely denounced Argo as an "advertisement for the CIA" and an attempt to discredit the revolution in the eyes of those too young to remember it directly. Masoomeh Ebtekar, a member of Tehran's City Council who actually took part in the seige of the U.S. embassy in 1979, complained that the film insisted the hostages were Revolutionary Guard soldiers, and not students, as Iran insists. The Iranian media has even gone so far as to declare the Oscar-win "politically motivated," a claim that was only bolstered by the decision to have Michelle Obama open the winning envelope.
The website of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting was a little more blunt:
The film has won the award while independent cinematographers in the west have said that this year’s Oscar ceremony was just held through supports of the White House and the CIA due to its cheap quality and the forgery prevailing in the film....
In another part of the film, after the entry of the revolutionary forces and students to the US den of espionage, the US diplomats (spies) hide at the Canadian ambassador’s house.
To be fair to the Iranians—yes, we're going to be fair to them—if you were inclined to believe that your revolution was a good thing and that the CIA is a duplicitous outfit (which it is), the circumstances around Argo's victory do seem a little suspicious. Even American movie critics have pointed out that much of the drama in Argo—in particular, the final airport chase scene—was fabricated for Hollywood effect. It beat Zero Dark Thirty, another movie that centered on CIA, but was much less laudatory. (The torture scenes aren't exactly an "advertisement" for America's greatness.) Then in "a preplanned and coordinated act" the Oscars broke their usual protocol to have the Best Picture announcement made by the First Lady of the United States, from the White House, while flanked by military service members. Maybe it wasn't politically motivated propaganda, but you have to admit it kind of looked like it was.
Plus, was it really that good a movie? We were sort of inclined to agree with one Tehranian citizen who told the AP, "It's a nice movie from technical aspects ... but I don't think it was worth a nomination for Oscar and other awards." As for the controversy, Press TV, another arm of Iran's state media, was more diplomatic. Their recap of the 85th Academy Awards didn't bother to mention the Best Picture category at all.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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