After all the dust of award season settled, Argo was declared the Best Picture of the Year at the Academy Awards. Ben Affleck, the snubbed director/ecstatic producer, gave another heartfelt and heartwarming speech just as he did during his first Oscar acceptance speech for scripting Good Will Hunting fifteen years before. And so, it seemed, the drama over Argo was over. Well, not for Iran it's not.
We reported earlier this year that there was a large-scale conference held to discuss the film and how it might serve as negative propaganda against Iran. It seems the Iranian government is still stewing over the movie. THR reports that French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, best known for defending to infamous Venezuelan terrorist Ilich "Carlos the Jackal" Ramirez Sanchez, is in the country speaking to officials about filing a lawsuit. At this point, it is unknown if they plan to sue Warner Bros (described as "Zionist" by Iranian news agency Fars) or Affleck himself. The grounds of the suit will be over what Iranian officials call Argo's "unrealistic portrayal" of Iran during the 1980 Hostage Crisis.
The decision to pursue legal action was made following a group of Iranian cultural officials and movie critics watching and discussing it at a theater in Tehran late Monday. Apparently, Argo's win along with its final honor being presented by First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama fanned this collective's fury over the feature.
It's interesting how differently a given film can speak to different people. When I saw Argo, I remember thinking that while Americans were definitely at risk in the film, I could understand the Iranians' outrage. Similarly, the Iranian divorce drama A Separation was one of my favorite films of 2011, as it opened up a world to me I knew little about and yet felt deeply connected to. Notably, Iran was not happy about how A Separation writer-director Asghar Farhadi portrayed the nation there either. He has since moved to France to shoot his follow-up.
Admittedly, I don't understand the outrage felt by the Iranian officials pursuing this lawsuit. But in concept I do support their other plan for a response: a movie of their own. Called The General Staff, the proposed film will serve as a counterpoint to Argo. I appreciate the idea of creating art you believe in to confront that you don't. Unfortunately, rather than giving the project to one of Iran's celebrated filmmakers lLike Farhadi or Abbas Kiarostami for instance), the "generous budget" from the Art Bureau of the Iranian government is being awarded to a minor figure in the industry named Ataollah Salmanian. He's already written the script, and is currently attached to helm.
We'll share more on this lawsuit and The General Staff as either develops.