When Ben Affleck set out to make Argo, which was released in the US four weeks before the presidential election and hits UAE cinemas today, it was never his intention for the film to be politicised.
The 40-year-old actor and director’s third film behind the camera is set against the backdrop of the Iranian revolution and the 1979 hostage crisis, in which 52 Americans were held in Tehran for more than a year. It tells the incredible story of Hollywood’s role in a CIA plot to get six US diplomats who managed to evade capture out of the country. The subject matter has clear topical resonance: the hostage crisis helped eject Jimmy Carter from the White House, and as President Barack Obama battled for re-election, he began facing pressure over attacks on US missions abroad.
“We tried to make it very factual, fact-based, because it was coming up before the election in the US, when a lot of things get politicised,” said Affleck.
The real-life story was classified for years and only became public in 1997. As the mission was stormed, a handful of diplomats managed to escape through a secret exit and took refuge in the Canadian embassy. They were out of Iranian hands, but the next question was how to get them out of the country. A CIA officer, Tony Mendez, proposed a solution that at first seemed far-fetched, but was eventually accepted: to mount a fictitious Hollywood science fiction movie production, ask Tehran for visas to scout for filming locations and then get the diplomats out of the country disguised as film crew members.
Affleck stressed the importance of historical accuracy.
“Naturally we wanted to be careful and judicious about presenting the facts and also stand firmly behind that, and say that this is an examination of this part of the world,” he said.