TORONTO – One year after “Argo” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Oscar-winning movie’s real-life Canadian hero is debuting his own account of the high-risk caper.
Canada’s former ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor, says the documentary “Our Man in Tehran” — screening at this year’s fest — offers “a very true” look at Canada’s role in rescuing six U.S. citizens from a riotous Tehran during the 1979 hostage crisis.
In Toronto to attend the film’s premiere and answer questions from the audience, Taylor acknowledged “a certain irony” in promoting the film at the same festival that launched “Argo”‘s celebrated Oscar run.
He notes he was not invited to last year’s “Argo” premiere, even though he figures prominently in the story, as played by Canadian actor Victor Garber.
Taylor says “Our Man in Tehran” offers “a very true but engaging presentation of what happened in Tehran.”
Joe Clark, who was prime minister during the hostage crisis, said Thursday night that the real story of how Taylor protected Americans is a “better story” than Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning film.
Clark commented at a screening of “Our Man in Tehran” at the Toronto International Film Festival, which wraps Sunday.
The 85-minutes film comes from Toronto-based filmmakers Larry Weinstein and Drew Taylor, who include interviews with Taylor, Clark, former CIA agent Tony Mendez and former CIA agent and hostage William Daugherty.
The doc traces the complicated political landscape that caused an angry mob to descend on the U.S. Embassy in the Iranian capital and take 52 Americans hostage.
Another six managed to escape into the city and they were sheltered by Taylor and Canadian diplomat John Sheardown who provided them with counterfeit documents to escape the country in a joint Canada-U.S. operation.
While Affleck’s Oscar-winning thriller focused on the exploits of Mendez, “Our Man in Tehran” offers a much broader look, including Canada’s role, Taylor said Thursday before walking the red carpet.
“I think Canadians have a latent nationalistic spirit, which they felt wasn’t answered or wasn’t addressed in ‘Argo,’” said Taylor. “The documentary is a story about how Canada works abroad.”
Daugherty described “Argo” as “a great, exciting fictional movie,” with an accurate account of the embassy takedown.
“Then it starts to deviate from reality and never comes back,” noted Daugherty. “The airplane chase down the runway was a nice little touch. In reality, they just walked through.”
He said he was very disappointed by how much Canada’s role was downplayed, and particularly the way Taylor was portrayed.
“It was almost like he was kind of an inn-keeper and it really didn’t give any sense at all of the courage that he exhibited in all of this and the decisions that he made, the risk that he took,” said Daugherty, who spent most of his time isolated from the rest of the hostages because of his CIA ties.
“None of that really made it in. The role of the Canadian government was almost totally overlooked and yet there were very high level people in the Canadian government that did some very risky things and not because of Canadian interests but because of American interests. And they didn’t need to. But they did anyway.”
“Our Man in Tehran” screens in Toronto on Sept. 20, and on The Movie Network on Sept. 21, when it will be followed by “Argo.”
_ with files from The Associated Press