The Telling of Argo: Historical Accuracies and Inaccuracies


The impact of a fictionalized account of a true story can substantially change the public perception, with an enduring, if not permanent effect. Some true events rendered to film or other media can be subject to artistic, political and literary license altering the accuracy of depicted truth represented. Methodologies and practices by editors, directors, writers, publishers and even actors add an intrinsic dramatization aimed at a calculated audience or readership response. In a primary sense, the skew of artifice to truth is often driven by a mediums market, current and past states of demeanor regarding the event, and by interpretive recollections and viewpoints.

In the instance of the multi-award-winning and widely acclaimed film Argo produced by Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Grant Heslov, great effort went into making certain elements of the film as accurate as possible. Being that the film was based on a covert CIA operation, known commonly as the “Canadian Caper” and also based on facts derived from news accounts, witness testimonies and the primary previous novel fictionalizations The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez and The Great Escape by Joshuah Bearman, and influences including but not limited to reasons stated earlier, a notable number of historical inaccuracies exist. The biggest difference from a Western perspective was stated by Jimmy Carter best when he said, “Ninety percent of the contributions to the ideas and consummation of the plan was Canadian.”

One of these examples is the CIA’s involvement was depicted in an over-glorified way in Argo, with wonderful results for the domestic understanding by American audiences, but at the expense of telling it incorrectly and denying Canadians their primary and chief role in the operation. In response, Ben Affleck stated regarding this issue, “…There were folks that didn’t want to stick their necks out and the Canadians did…Because of that their lives were saved.”

Notably, and perhaps with greater enduring consequence politically both positively and negatively, has been the reception by the Iranians. Among those who note qualified Iranian diasporic sentiment about the film is Canadian writer Jian Ghomeshi, of Iranian heritage, who states the film has a “deeply troubling portrayal of the Iranian people.”

Clearly, film, stage, literature and other mediums for fiction have a demonstrative effect on people, not only educating them about the event, but also bringing an added dimension of point of view introduce through those in a capacity and with a prerogative to exercise dramatic license.

This sometimes almost falls into a category of media known as propaganda. Sometimes it may seem that, although there is very accurate depicting taking place, an agenda is somehow being met. In the early days of the Soviet Union, just after the Bolshevik Revolution, in fact in an effort to persuade the people of Russia of the justification of the events of 1917, a film by Sergei Eisenstein called The Battleship Potemkin utilized experimental employs of the Kuleshov Effect, a dramatic style of montage. Quite effectively, the Tsarist forces were seen as merciless brutes slaughtering masses of innocent people.

Works Cited

Bearman, Joshuah. “How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran.” Conde Nast Digital, 24 Apr. 2007. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

Affleck Starts Shooting ‘Argo’ Film in LA.” UPI. United Press International, 12 Sept. 2011. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

Knelman, Martin. “TIFF 2012: How Canadian Hero Ken Taylor Was Snubbed by Argo | Toronto Star.” Toronto Star Newspaper, 12 Sept. 2012. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

McDevitt, Caitlin. “Jimmy Carter: ‘Argo’ Great but Inaccurate.” POLITICO. 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

Ghomeshi, Jian. “Jian Ghomeshi: Argo Is Crowd-pleasing, Entertaining – and Unfair to Iranians.” The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail, 2 Nov. 2012. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

Ebert, Roger. “The Battleship Potemkin Movie Review (1925) | Roger Ebert.” All Content. 19 July 1998. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

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