You are unlikely to find a parliament in the world that discusses cinema more than New Zealand’s.
Today it wasn’t The Hobbit and the controversial changes to employment law that Peter Jackson’s films brought about that was occupying minds in the house of representatives, however.
It was Argo, the Ben Affleck directed film that won best director at the 2013 Academy Awards.
This afternoon in the house, the sometimes controversial veteran MP and leader of the small New Zealand First Party, Winston Peters, rose to his feet (see clip above).
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I seek leave of the House to move a non-controversial motion without notice and without debate to correct the grave misrepresentation of the courageous and commendable role of New Zealand diplomats in the 1979 Teheran hostage crisis in the movie Argot.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection to that? There appears to be none.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I move, That this House acknowledge with gratitude the efforts of former New Zealand diplomats Chris Beeby and Richard Sewell in assisting American hostages into Iran doing the hostages crisis in 1979 and express its regret that the director of the movie Argot saw fit to mislead the world about what actually happened during that crisis when, in reality, our courageous diplomats’ inspirational actions were of significant help to the American hostages and deserve the factual and historical record to be corrected.
It was a clever bit of political opportunism from Peters, who phrased his motion in such a way that any objection might have been made to look unpatriotic.
One high-profile television journalist, Patrick Gower, has been vocal on the issue, demanding an apology from Affleck in a pugnacious blog post. That attracted the attention of the Washington Post, which was nice, even if it rather overestimated the scale of the upset in New Zealand.
New Zealand is not alone in being a bit cross with Affleck about the depiction of history in the film. British diplomats are unhappy. And then there’s Iran: Tehran are reportedly planning to go one better than New Zealand and sue Hollywood.
Affleck half-addressed the issue in a press conference after the Oscars, saying, “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”.
And he attempted to mollify complainants down under with a chirpy “I love New Zealand!”
Affleck had, on the release of the film, told the NZ Herald that he had “struggled with this long and hard because it casts Britain and New Zealand in a way that is not totally fair”.