TEHRAN — For the second consecutive year many Iranians had good reason to stay up late into the night to watch the Academy Awards ceremony.
Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” which recounts the successful rescue mission of several American diplomats during the 1979 hostage crisis in Tehran, won best picture Sunday night, and Iranian media was quick to react on Monday.
The elation that followed Iran’s first Oscar victory for the film “A Separation,” which won best foreign film last year, however, has been pushed aside by what many here see as a politically motivated choice for this year’s best picture winner.
That perception was re-enforced by the surprise presenter of the award, Michelle Obama. Fars News, Iran’s main hardline outlet, wasted no time in questioning her role, writing, “In a rare occasion in Oscar history, the First Lady announced the winner for Best Picture for the anti-Iran Film ‘Argo,’ which is produced by the Zionist company Warner Bros.”
Others criticized the way Affleck referred to Islamic Republic in his acceptance speech when he said, “I want to thank our friends in Iran who live under terrible circumstances.” Mehr News ran this headline: “After distorting history, Ben Affleck continues to show a bleak picture of Iran: Iranians live in terrible circumstances.”
The Asriran news Web site wrote, “Argo is a movie against Iran and it seems that Javad Shamghadri was not able to use his lobby to prevent an anti-Iran movie from winning,” referring to remarks by the deputy for cinema in Iran’s Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance who last week claimed that, at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s request, his organization had lobbied hard for “A Separation” to win in 2012, and that the efforts had paid off.
The award comes less than two days before already tense nuclear talks between Iran and global powers resume in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Iran over the hostage incident, and tensions between the two countries continue to be high over concerns about Iran’s ongoing nuclear activities.