Our Man in Tehran

It’s time someone set the record straight. When actor/director Ben Affleck made Argo last year, lauding the role of CIA operative Tony Mendez in surreptitiously extracting six U.S. diplomats at the height of Iran hostage crisis of 1979-80, it rightly put some noses out of joint north of the border.

Mendez did indeed hatch a rather hare-brained scheme to disguise the diplomats as Canadians after they managed to flee the U.S. embassy. But it was the work of Canada’s former ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor, and a host of other Canucks right up the chain to former prime minister Joe Clark, who really made it happen.

Along with archival footage, Our Man in Tehran directors Drew Taylor and Larry Weinstein assemble virtually all the main players more than three decades later in a solid documentary that puts all the events into historical context and provides valuable new details.

First off, context. Would anyone watching Argo have any idea what all the foofarah was about back in the late 1970s, when the late Shah — after decades of torture and oppression — was forced to abdicate, leaving a power vacuum filled by the late Ayatollah Khomeini, whose theocratic dictatorship remains in place to this day? They will after seeing Our Man in Tehran. But the film adds rich detail to the events from the people who were there, including Taylor, his wife, journalists, some of the rescued Americans and even William Daugherty, who was among 52 hostages held for 444 days. Even retired CIA spook Mendez himself appears.

Through it all, Weinstein, the veteran, and Drew Taylor, making his directorial debut, weave an intelligent, complex and tension-filled story that breathes life into historical events that are fast fading from our collective memory.
In doing so, the co-directors give Taylor (the diplomat) and many others their due and give Canadians at large a reason to feel rightly proud.

- Bruce DeMara, Toronto Star


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