Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Argo could 'mislead a generation'

The Canadian ambassador on whom the Academy Award-winning film Argo was based says he is concerned a new generation will be misinformed about New Zealand's role in the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.

Former diplomat Ken Taylor helped six United States diplomats flee Tehran after their embassy was stormed.

Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, portrayed their dramatic escape and suggested the New Zealand Embassy in Iran refused to offer help to the American officials.

Affleck has previously said the film was not fair on New Zealand, but the controversy has been reignited after the film won an Oscar this week.

After winning the award, Affleck stressed that he "loved New Zealand and New Zealanders".

Mr Taylor emphasised that he had had "outstanding assistance" from New Zealand diplomats in Tehran, in particular Ambassador Chris Beeby.

He said Mr Beeby and second secretary Richard Sewell were "world-class diplomats" and "very much part of the team" which helped the fugitives get away.

"They were extraordinary and I'd like New Zealanders to understand that at no time were the New Zealand Embassy asked to take diplomats in and refused."

The former ambassador said the film was entertaining but he was concerned that it could rewrite the history books for young people.

"As long as people realise that this isn't the historical record. And that is difficult to do because movies leave an impression. Particularly with young people - they weren't around when it happened."

Mr Taylor said he approached the New Zealand High Commission in Ottawa to ask if he could hold a press conference to speak about New Zealand's contribution to the rescue.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said yesterday he was not aware of any approaches by Canadian officials.

Prime Minister John Key acknowledged that Argo was a creative account of the historical incident but said it was unfortunate New Zealand's role was not accurately presented.

"It's a bit disappointing," he said. "I see Ben Affleck's telling everyone ... he loves New Zealand and New Zealanders - that's a good thing but it would be helpful if [the film] was a bit more accurate."

Asked whether the director should have thanked New Zealand for its assistance to the diplomats as well as Canada, Mr Key said: "It would be nice if he did. But look, in the end, it's the movies."

The Prime Minister added that it was "a good movie which had done well".

Affleck said he had had to make "creative choices" for the three-hour feature. "It's tricky, you walk a fine line. It's not an easy thing to do.

"You try to honour the truth, the essence, the basic truth of the story that you're telling.

"The story that we're telling is true ... it's constructed as well as it could possibly be."

- NZ Herald

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