by Afra Nariman
Director: Ben Affleck
Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber
Starting off with saying, go watch Hostages on HBOmax instead.
My blood pressure while watching this definitely boiled to unsafe levels. For years I had avoided watching this movie because I knew it was problematic in how it represented the events that shape the film, that it was one-sided and that it demonized the other, and that it’s very limited in how it presents everything, generally. I finally had to watch it in a class — (with everything happening right now, you’d think screening problematic misrepresentations of Iranians would be avoided) — but since I had to watch it, I might as well write down a few thoughts…
Argo is a grossly irresponsible film that perverts a historical event through a lens of demonization, orientalism, and the myth of Western heroism (the latter of which further directly ignores the context of the event being portrayed in the film). The film further perpetrates the issue of the West’s constant and historical, ongoing negative conflations and generalization of the Middle East and of the people of Iran specifically. The filmmakers here completely fail to humanize any Iranians in any way. Argo is a movie pertaining to the well-documented hostage situation, but the specific story being told is not one that spends any significant time with the students who actually ‘took the hostages’ — yet, every single time an Iranian is shown on screen at all, they are demonized; being shown as violent, angry, or as a threat, and nothing more. There are even a couple of scenes where there are no translations provided, so all that is seen is an angry Iranian man yelling at Americans. There is not a single humanizing frame in Argo; and it’s a boring movie, too.
The fact that Argo won Best Picture at the Oscars is ridiculous, shocking and disheartening, but unfortunately not off-brand for the Oscars. If Americans and people in the West generally, knew more about Iranian history and people, Argo winning Best Picture would be viewed as one of the most problematic wins in the history of the award — i.e. similar to how we talk about The Green Book winning Best Picture.
Here are just a few films from 2012 that are better and more deserving than Argo — and I’ll only list the English-language ones for the sake of this point, considering we are talking about the Academy (especially circa 2012):
- The Master
- Frances Ha
- Django: Unchained
- Moonrise Kingdom
- Life of Pi
- Silver Linings Playbook
- Wreck it Ralph
MY RATING /5:
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