It’s seems a certainty right now, even though it’s early, that Ben Affleck’s Argo will be a legitimate contender for Oscar. He’s a skilled director. The actors are impressive. And the story is like porn for Oscar voters - that Hollywood had a hand in a dramatic covert international rescue.
Argo takes place during the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979. Six US diplomats were taken to the Canadian Embassy. Ken Taylor was the Canadian ambassador to Iran at the time. Affleck’s film is about how the CIA concocted a brazen plan to get the hostages out of the country by bluffing the Iranians into thinking the hostages were working on a movie. When the film was presented at TIFF, a post-script ran at the end during the credits that implied that the Canadians stole the glory from the CIA and that Ken Taylor’s role in the escape wasn’t all that important. Taylor’s friends, after screening Argo at the festival, took exception to this portrayal. When Affleck found out that he may have offended Taylor, he reached out to him and made it all better by modifying his post-script and inviting Taylor and his wife to hang out with him in LA and there was a group hug and it’s love all around.
The postscript now reads:
“The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran. To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international co-operation between governments.”
All of this was reported in the Toronto Star the other day. I encourage you to read the more detailed account of how it unfolded - click here. Even though Affleck ultimately righted his error, the fact of the matter is that he was compelled to do it only after he was made aware of the objections which... what does that say about his initial commitment to telling the entire truth of the incident? As a filmmaker, one could argue that his primary goal is to entertain. And we do certainly allow creative license in entertainment. The question is... at what expense? If creative license results in diminishing the courageous contribution of a distinguished Canadian citizen (in other words, to Americans, a foreigner), is that acceptable if it ends up being a really good movie?
This, obviously, happens all the time. Hollywood comes along and Hollywood-washes everything. And then Hollywood sells it back to us like it’s totally legit. There was a sense though, especially in how Ben Affleck, the accomplished director, has been sold to us, that his work would be above that. That it was especially important for him to be seen this way after he reclaimed his career from the crazy sh-t that was Bennifer. Or I am just being a sensitive Canadian?
Here’s Ben arriving today at the San Sebastian Film Festival. Argo opens on October 12.