Friday, October 21, 2016

Super Delegates Bonus: Jimmy Carter on "Argo" (2012)

Welcome to Super Delegates Bonus. As a subsidiary of Super Delegates, the sporadic additional column is meant to explore depictions of politicians on film outside of the conventional methods of the column. This ranges from everything such as political candidates in TV movies and miniseries to real life candidates providing feedback on their pop culture representation. While not as frequent or conventional, the goal is to help provide a vaster look at politics on film as it relates to the modern election year. Join in and have some fun. One can only imagine what will be covered here.

Release Date: October 12, 2012
Directed By: Ben Affleck
Written By: Chris Terrio (Screenplay), Tony Mendez (Selection), Joshuah Bearman (Article)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman
Oscar Wins: 3
-Best Picture
-Best Adapted Screenplay
-Best Editing
Oscar Nominations: 4
-Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin)
-Best Original Score
-Best Sound Mixing
-Best Sound Editing
Delegates in Question:
-President Jimmy Carter

It isn't often that a United States President gives his input into modern cinema. While they are allowed to share their opinions, it doesn't seem often that one could sit down and discuss its accuracy unless it is directly related to their personal lives. Then again, director Ben Affleck's Argo wasn't just another movie. It was about the crisis in Tehran that saw six Americans become kidnapped. With the help of Tony Mendez (Affleck) and the C.I.A., Argo follows how a fake film production was made and how the hostages were saved in the most peaceful manner possible. The question is not of how brave they were, but of how accurate it actually was.

Compared to most late 20th century presidents, Jimmy Carter doesn't get a lot of press beyond his personal activism. His achievements in office are overshadowed by the grandiose impact of Ronald Reagan who followed him as president. In fact, his status as the humble peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia definitely made him at least the most unassuming president in modern history. It only makes sense then that when there's finally a film that takes place during his time in office that he would have plenty to say about it. Following the film's release, he held an interview with Piers Morgan for CNN:

The events that inspired Argo were in fact kept under wraps for a considerable period. In a New Yorker article, it was made known that not even Carter's speechwriter was aware of the mission. No major autobiography from the era mentioned it. If you had grown up in the period and not known about it, you'd be forgiven. The humble president sure took success with a humbleness that is frankly refreshing when compared to a modern election where a presidential nominee may or may not accept the results of the election for a system that he claims is "rigged." If one understood the story from America's side, it looks like the most patriotic execution imaginable. However, Carter has a different recollection.

Was the United States involved? Yes. However, to what extent is greatly exaggerated. According to Carter, it was Canada who did the majority of the work. The major reason that Carter and the United States' C.I.A. got involved was that the government wouldn't be able to print an acceptable amount of fake passports. The thanks should really be given to Ken Taylor (Victor Garber), whose role is significantly shrunk in the film to focus on American Tony Mendez, whom Carter claims wasn't even around as long as the film would suggest. In summation, the United States were involved, but this was a mission that should be given more credit to Canada's involvement.

It is likely that Argo will be the only knowledge that audiences have to the hostage negotiations. The one hope is that enough people are skeptical enough to do the research and discover the real truth. It still is a harrowing, impressive mission. Yet it likely gets buried under American patriotism and the Hollywood sensibility. The plane chase that ends the film is a heightened version of what actually happened. To some extent, Carter is far too humble to suggest any heroism that would make him look exceptional. Even then, it's to his credit that he was honest and critiqued inaccuracies with the best of historical researchers.

Of course, it was from here that people would differ on his opinion. Those who are taken out of cinema for its inaccuracy will likely disapprove of Argo's large Canadian absence. However, Carter admits one thing that he wasn't alone on. He loved the film. Calling it great, he championed the film and believed that it should win the Academy Award for Best Picture. In a political year that also saw films like Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, it was nice to hear the president chime in with his two cents. Of his many noteworthy achievements in office, he was documented as the president who watched the most cinema. You can see that as a positive or negative, but it makes his passionate talk all the more enjoyable. Considering that the Best Picture category at the ceremony was presented by Jack Nicholson and First Lady Michelle Obama, he wasn't the only presidential figure who was involved with Argo's enthusiasm. Even then, it proved that accuracy isn't important (though it's encouraged). What's important is creating powerful works of cinema. Carter continues to understand it very well.

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