Film Education

Entertainment Vs Truth


Entertainment Vs Truth

A musing by Oorvazi Irani

The recent Oscar nominees and winner have got me thinking again. Do films reflect reality or a perception of reality, or is reality and the truth anywhere in the picture. A film always has an agenda and belongs to someone. So when we view a film we need to think deeper than the plot and be aware of an undercurrent ideology that the film promotes.  Sometimes intentional, sometimes in the name of formula and entertainment truth is put for sale.

I would like to quote Farrukh Dhondy(from his column Cabbages and Kings that appeared in Asian Age on March 2nd 2013) in regards the film “Lincoln” and the interesting views he puts forth

“Slavery in America was not abolished by Lincoln and his civil war but by the need of the nascent capitalist industries in the North for free labour from the South.

…….The question is, quite simply, “Did Abraham Lincoln intentionally and heroically liberate the slaves?”
A child’s first view of history is mythological. Figures loom largest. Noah saved all living creatures from the flood; William conquered Britain; Ashoka united India; Aurangzeb stubbornly brought about the downfall of the Mughal empire; Lincoln freed the slaves… People dominate. They are the movers, the shakers of the earth and it makes sense.
Then comes adolescence and the awareness that history is not the story of kings but the story of the people. One embraces that doctrine with all the enthusiasm of the new republican and then follows the theory… ” ( here is the link to the full article

The film “Argo” at the surface does not seem a Hollywood formula film and is based on true facts but why does the film have a climax that seems just too filmy to digest, a car chasing a plane and the heroes get away safe and sound.  What is the level of creative liberties in relation to depicting facts that do not dilute the heart of the matter is an interesting exploration. As facts were omitted , different circumstances created for a more entertaining film but as a certain critic rightly questions is that really necessary to create drama, a good storyteller could extract the drama out of real life but I say would that sell is the big question, but why not, do we want it to sell and to whom. When presenting a historical fact seeing it from the American viewpoint only could be dangerously pushing Iranian stereotypes and highlighting an event itself projects the makers in a certain light. Its not about how good or bad the Iranians are  but whats most important is about how great the Americans are.

“Argo” the Oscar winning film this year again highlights a supposed success story of America and the whole world starts talking about it. The film is cinematically quite good like all the films mentioned above and has a style of realism in its cinematic appeal (most of the time) but yet again the main focus of the film remains projecting the American CIA agent as the star. A popular film needs a active single strong protagonist and this character dynamics is never lost in the tale of all our Oscar films mentioned above. It just happens to be that two of those protagonists are CIA agents, isn’t it.

Reality is all perception and truth is but relative, in that web I search for my vision of discovery.


8 Comments so far
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while i agree with a lot of what is said, i also think that for once at least, we should see a film for what it is, a film- Oscars have forever been political when they award films- and that makes it tougher, but then in the current scenario, Argo was at the end of the day, a very neatly made tight scripted film- that got you on the edge, despite the filmy climax, gave you realism in good measure, and entertained you- everything that the best film of the year should do. The other CIA agent on the other hand, was hard, real and palpably disturbing- which perhaps worked against it with the jury. While i wouldnt grudge zero dark thirty being given the best film, i would defintiely wonder at what is wrong if an entertainer wins over a gritty real film? cinema is as much to entertain as much it is to be a mirror of the times.

As for the agrandising of American way of life, which hollywood film doesnt do it? Argo, in my view, did not show Iran in any light other than what is the general perception, nor did it overtly glorify the americans beyond what is the general perception- again, the subject matter here was of a nations victory in rescuing its citizens from a hostile land- i wonder what other way could that be told when the idea was to make an entertaining thriller and not a documentary styled introspective film that Zero Dark was!

to compare the two CIA agents is like comparing lemons with oranges- oth citric yet not the same

Comment by ameetbhuvan

Thanks for sharing your feedback.
My thoughts in response. What I want to highlight with this post is that many times ideologies are slipped into our belief systems without us knowing it and its not just about the Oscars, but Hollywood, and then all systems including Bollywood etc in which a film is made ans they reflect certain attitudes like the Hollywood myth of the western genre. Sometimes on the surface it seems different but on deeper examination there is another story. And the CIA Agent being the star is the strong message that I got after I reflected on the two films mentioned in my article, and that is when i gave it some thought. What does this imply in contemporary times is what my thoughts go to. Entertainment is fine but in the name of entertainment there are hidden messages that get passed on.

Comment by oorvazi

totally agree 😀 it is sad, but then that is how the medium is as well aint it! we cant do justice to every perspective at once, also, CIA being the hero is someones truth as well !! thats the absurdity and democracy of it all

Comment by ameetbhuvan

Well, hollywood has always been America’s most potent weapon. Yes, even i feel realism has been sacrificed in the name of entertainment. I personally disliked the portrayal of Iranians in Argo. There is certainly some sort of propoganda that Argo wants to pass on. Every Iranian is a lunatic with boiling rage in his eyes and CIA is the saviour of all Americans in trouble in the Islamic world. I just can’t take such stuff!

Comment by Rasik

Rasik, thanks for sharing your views, they extend the article

Comment by oorvazi

Fir the last few years I have noticed a Pro-American and Pro-Imperial themes in Hollywood. And interestingly, these are the movies that end up as best film. In such films, it is a common fact to distort historical facts subtly to suit them. In a time when the country is going through an economic crisis, such films are certainly intended to boost the morale of the people. True art is being sacrificed, but Hollywood is primarily aimed at entertainment rather than art. So this is hardly surprising. A well written articles covering the important aspects 🙂

Comment by Riddhiman Basu

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, interesting as usual

Comment by oorvazi

And feedback from people like you help expand the article and take the thought into various directions

Comment by oorvazi

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