I guess it’s fair to say that Ben Affleck is not doing a documentary … or is he? In a recent interview by Terry Gross with Affleck that I caught on National Public Radio, he notes how he studied the Middle East in college and wanted to include the information on Mohammed Mossadeg and the US intervention in Iranian affairs to bring Shah Palavi to power. Affleck left me with the impression that accuracy was very important to the project.
To underscore the film’s commitment to reality, Affleck included information in the film’s front cards that was important to him as a student of the Middle East. This consisted of the historical context concerning the violent overthrow of Mohammed Mosaddegh and the successful CIA plot to consolidate the power of the shah, Mohammed Pahlava. This coup ultimately, according to many observers, led to the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Is Argo a story that is fundamentally true but appropriately tweaked to create the successful commercial venture, or is it a dramatization that while inspired by real events is largely a work of fiction with a political message? And, if the latter, as Hillary Clinton might say, “Who cares?”
Obviously, I care because too many people, especially young people, go to the movies and are incapable of discerning fact from fiction, especially when a popular and entertaining movie seems to be sufficiently grounded in reality to provide historical context.