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The Political Uses of Archival Material in "Argo," "Zero Dark Thirty" and Chile's "No"

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • February 7, 2013 9:23 AM
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  • 1 Comment
I'm not sure if anyone has called it out specifically, but archival news material made a comeback in the Hollywood feature film recently, with the most high-profile examples coming in this year's Oscar nominees "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty." (You can bet that if broadcast news journalists coverered the American Civil War, Steven Spielberg would have included a few excerpts during the end credits of "Lincoln," too.) For my most recent Docutopia column, I wrote about the various uses of news and documentary clips in those two bigger movies, compared with those in "No," Chilean director Pablo Larrain's more self-aware look at a tumultous moment in his own country's history.

Iran Attacks "Hollywoodism"; Why They're Right, and Wrong

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • February 6, 2013 10:59 AM
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In the midst of Iran's prestigious 31st Fajr International Film Festival, which recently awarded its top prize to Iranian filmmaker Behnam Behzadi's family drama “The Rule of Accident,” an unfortunate parallel event is being conducted called "Hollywoodism and Cinema," which, by all accounts, is conservative Islamic propaganda aimed at demonizing Jews, Hollywood and Jewish Hollywood. The conference is making news on a number of fronts: the Western Media loves to highlight stories that show off Iran's more wacky ideologues; and there are also unsubstantiated reports that Malcolm Shabazz, Malcolm X's grandson, was arrested by the FBI on his way to Tehran to attend the conference. (Can some crime reporter please follow up on this?)

"Argo" Reconsidered: Ben Affleck is a Right-Wing Propagandist

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • October 14, 2012 9:51 PM
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Aside from a pro-Jimmy Carter coda and a few asides that show America's support of the repressive Iranian monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Ben Affleck's "Argo" is essentially and overwhelmingly right-wing, pro-American propaganda, demonizing Iran as backward, barbaric, and fanatical--which is particularly problematic considering the United States' rising tensions with Iran. Sure, Affleck is depicting a moment of national crisis in Iran, when the country was gripped with an extremist Islamic fervor, but I suspect Iranian historians would have told Affleck's production team that not every single Iranian was a screaming, violent, fundamentalist--as they seem to be depicted in just about every scene of the film. We get angry Iranian mobs on the streets, in bazaars. in the airports. Is this really any better than that Chuck Norris' Iranian hostage exploitation film "Delta Force" from the 1980s?

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