Oscar winner ‘Argo’ sparks history debate


This undated publicity film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Bryan Cranston, left, as Jack O’Donnell and Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in “Argo,” a rescue thriller about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. A best-picture win at the upcoming Oscars could be viewed as righting a wrong after Affleck inexplicably missed out on a best-director nomination. (AP Photo/Warner Bros., Claire Folger, File)

HOLLYWOOD—”Argo,” which won best picture Oscar Sunday (Monday in Manila), tells the true story of a CIA operation to spirit six US hostages out of Iran—even if it takes liberties with history, by its makers’ own admission.

The movie, directed and starring Ben Affleck, became the surprise frontrunner for the top statuette after sweeping a string of top prizes in Hollywood’s annual awards season, which wrapped up with the Oscars.

Affleck racked up awards from the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), Directors Guild of America (DGA) and Producers Guild of America (PGA) in the weeks before Sunday’s Academy Awards show.

“I was here 15 years ago or something, and, you know, I had no idea what I was doing,” Affleck said, referring to his 1998 Oscar win with Matt Damon for best original screenplay for “Good Will Hunting.”

“I never thought that I would be back here.”

“Argo” recounts the long-classified CIA plot to extract the diplomats by pretending that they are part of a Hollywood film crew scouting for locations for a science fiction flick.

But it openly takes liberties with the facts. In a white-knuckle climax, for example, Iranian guards speed along a runway next to a plane carrying the escaping diplomats, threatening to stop it from taking off. That didn’t happen.

Canada’s role in giving refuge to the diplomats in Tehran, and securing their safe passage out of Iran, is significantly underplayed. The mission is seen as largely the work of CIA agent Tony Mendez, played by Affleck.

In the film, they are given refuge by the Canadian ambassador to Tehran after escaping through a back exit as the US embassy was stormed by Islamist students, who went on to hold over 50 Americans hostage for more than a year.

Mendez is shown flying in, giving the diplomats their false identities, and leading them through a series of close shaves to freedom.

These include a made-up scene in a Tehran market where they are surrounded by an angry mob but just escape with their lives, as well as a fake tense scene at the airport, and the fictional runway chase.

They are also shown holed up at the residence of the Canadian ambassador to Tehran, Ken Taylor. In reality they were split into two groups—one with Taylor and the other with another Canadian diplomat.

Days after Affleck’s film won the best film Golden Globe last month, Tehran announced that it was making its own movie about the American hostage drama during the 1979 Islamic revolution.

“Argo” might have won the top Oscar, as well as awards for best adapted screenplay and best film editing, but Affleck was left off the shortlist for best director, in what was widely seen as a snub to the actor-turned-filmmaker.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • John Shinn III

    WRONG! Long before Argo got all nominations, Life Of Pi director Ang Lee was already an early favorite because Ang Lee was able to make a movie out of a script that everyone in Hollywood thought cannot be done on film!

    Don’t worry. Ben Affleck has just started. He’s one of the young breed directors to watch in the next 10 years….Steven Spielberg is finished as a director….

  • WeAry_Bat

    “Days after Affleck’s film won the best film Golden Globe last month,
    Tehran announced that it was making its own movie about the American
    hostage drama during the 1979 Islamic revolution.”

    Title, “Groan”. 

    The movie was later shelved because the acting was like triple-x movies with the plot of B-movies and special effects similar to Hannah Barbera cartoons.  The Tehran movie was mistaken as a remake of Ogie’s Isko Animasia.

  • vic anino

    don’t you worry, before the thearitical release of Argo, Ken Taylor was among the privileged few to watch the pre-screening and he critizized the Historical inaccuracy of the movie adaptation, but he had a Good Talk with Ben Afflect and after all it was just a movie…if you wanted the “beef ” of it all, it is no longer classified…

  • speedstream2

    What did you expect? It’s a movie for crying out loud. As things stand in the world, there are more important and really pressing matters that deserve serious attention.

    • Missy Thurngood

      and i’m glad to see your attention is focused on reading and writing inane comments.  You are our hero.

  • renedr

    I saw the movie. I don’t think it should have won. The plot was weak. If they were going to stop the plane, a simple call from the tower would have done it, no need for a car chasing the plane. So obviously the Tehran Police did not find out about the escape until after it happened. If I want to watch something unbelievable, I would much rather watch Bruce Willis. Somehow I think the truth would have been more interesting than fiction.

    • Noel

      Oscars like other award winning bodies could be corrupt.

      • Mamerto

        NO CORRUPTION, here.

        It’s just a popularity contest.,
        just like the Elections., you vote on whom you like.
        (Corruption could happen if the counting was manipulated,
        like “dag.dag bawas”.)

  • Noel

    Indeed, the role of Canada was under played.  The US always looks down on her little brother up north.  No wonder many Canadians hate the Americans.  If not for the Canadian ambassador, all of them in Iran would have been killed.  The US always wants to play hero even if they don’t deserve it.  The US also under played our Filipino guerrillas’ role in WW2.  Worse, our Filipino veterans have not received their full benefits yet until this day.

    • Missy Thurngood

      “..all of them in Iran would have been killed”. There were more than 50 hostages and none were killed.  Where are you getting your ideas? Manood ka na lang ng ina kapatid anak, mas bagay.

      • Noel

        I might he exaggerating when I said all of them would have been killed.  But definitely some would have died if not for Canada.  I don’t watch that telesere you mentioned.  I only watch “Be Careful with my Heart”.

      • Bojo Mojo

         hahahaha! kaklase pala kita!

    • Mamerto

      CORRECTION: Most of our Filipino Veterans have received their full benefits.
      Those who haven’t received full benefits “may have failed” to submit all necessary doc.
      (Please Note that there is “quite a number” of “fake-veterans”…, 
      including some former high-government. officials.)

      • Noel

        Where are you from and what planet?  First time I heard of Filipino veterans receiving their full benefits.  But why do we see them rallying and protesting seeking politicians’ help.  Even the government is looking into their plight.

  • milo go

    It is a movie nothing more made for American audience. Canadians can make their own “real” version

    • Mamerto

      And there is such a thing, called “poetic license” and “dramatization”.

  • wowie

    Next movie?  making Marco’s a hero to the Philippine people. Real fiction!!

    • Mamerto

      Correction: that’s “Marcos’ “.
      Still, WOW, you just made my day. (

  • Mamerto

    ***The Academy Awards is not really a contest on who is the “Best” like in the Olympics.

    The “voters”(members) cast their ballots to whom THEY LIKE…, just like in the “Elections”.
    ***Reason why, Ben Affleck, did NOT get NOMINATED as “DIRECTOR”, 
    in spite of the “related movie” WON as BEST PICTURE.
    (this is what is known as an “academe snub”.)

  • Mamerto

    As far as “historical accuracy” is concerned among “Historical Movies”…,

    What comes to mind is the multi-awarded movie, “the Bridge on the River Kwai”…,It won SEVEN Awards in 1957, including Best Picture & Best Actor.
    The Kwai River was several times smaller than what was depicted in the movie.The “Bridge” was also, correspondingly, smaller.
    Most parts of the movie, specially the times before the climactic ending, was mostly fictionalized.
    The “Climactic Ending” wasn’t that dramatic either.
    In.spite of these…, this film was deemed 
    “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the United States Library of Congress National Film Registry.
    ” It is widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time.”

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks



latest videos