Which Story: Argo

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What stories do we want to hear?

Whenever a film puts out the descriptor “Based on True Events,” I’m in.

It’s as if Hollywood, for a moment in time, has given pause to the fact that the narrative our lives create has just as much (if not more) meaning than our imaginations can conjure up. Sure, I realize it’s not this simple. Some of Hollywood’s greatest stories are not derived from authentic experiences. And just as well, many of the seemingly “real” narratives put forth are almost always manipulated for the sake of the audience.

Questions of accuracy aside, Ben Affleck’s latest “please-acknowledge-I’ve-moved-beyond Gigli” film, Argo, is Hollywood’s latest Oscar-worthy flick to warrant this descriptor. It has all the pieces Hollywood banks on – conflict, deception, heroism, and well… themselves. Not to mention the fact that it is based on historical events that ultimately fuels the ideology that American is both stronger and smarter than our enemies (a.k.a. Iran). All which brings me to the question at hand…

What stories do we want to hear?

The story about Iranian students contesting these same ideologies by (locally) overthrowing the world’s greatest super power? Or the one where America reminds the world who not to mess with?

In the case of Argo, we have chosen the latter. Truth or fiction is not the point. But rather, we sit in the position to choose which story we want to engage – a little game we play every time we head to the theater.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting this isn’t a story worth hearing. (Note: We will never write-up a film on rednow we believe unworthy of experiencing). Argo is good. It will be in my “Top 10 of 2012.” It will be nominated for an Oscar. Affleck has officially redeemed himself. And the narrative will appropriately enter America’s culture and history books.

But as a reminder, rednow is not an exercise in what we have to say about a particular piece of art (film) as much as it is an exploration of what this piece has to say about us. And in the case of Argo, it might be more about what it has to say about Western culture than it is about an imaginative espionage story from the 70′s. Fortunately for all of us, we get to experience both realities at play. We get the entertaining story and we assume the commentary it brings. But maybe the greater question still remains to be asked/told… What’s the story from the other side?

It is this that I wonder.


For an interpretation of Iranian culture from within Iranian borders, we highly recommend A Separation, which received an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2012.