Ask Professor Shiva Balaghi anything about ‘Argo’


With the 2013 Oscars just around the corner, many of us have been curious about the historical accuracy of films like Lincoln and Argo, both in the running for Best Picture. Luckily for us skeptical Brown students, we have an unparalleled opportunity to engage with knowledgable Brown historians about the films that fall within their respective areas of expertise. First, we had the opportunity to ask Professor Vorenberg anything about Lincoln (and we’ll have the opportunity to do so again on March 1, where there will also be cake). Now, the University presents its interactive “Ask a Professor about Argo” with beloved, no-B.S. Professor Shiva Balaghi, a jack of all trades and a master tweeter (Ed.-We’re sorry for “outing” you on Twitter back in the day, and we’re sorry for doing it again now).

Professor Shiva Balaghi is a cultural historian of the Middle East. She’s a Laya Khadjavi Visiting Professor of Iranian Studies here at Brown, teaching in the History and History of Art and Architecture departments. This semester, she’s teaching “Twentieth Century Iran,” a capstone seminar in the History department, and “What is Islamic Art?” an upper-level seminar in the History of Art and Architecture department. Additionally, she is the Vice-President of the American Institute of Iranian Studies. She left her native Tehran for the United States around the time that the events depicted in Argo took place.

Thus, a scholar of Professor Balaghi’s expertise is well-equipped to field questions addressing Argo‘s historical accuracy. You can submit questions to Professor Balaghi by commenting on this picture and choose the questions she’ll be asked by “liking” ones that tickle your intellectual fancy. If you’re interested in learning more about Argo as it relates to the reality of the Iranian Hostage Crisis, you should check out Professor Balaghi’s review of the film in India’s Frontline magazine.

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BlogDailyHerald predicts The 2013 Oscars

RISD, bitch.

This Sunday, RISD alum Seth MacFarlane will take the mic to host the 85th Academy Awards (7 p.m., ABC). It’s been a solid year for film, with nine incredibly diverse Best Picture nominees vying for a place in the Oscar pantheon.

Before we get into our predictions, we’d be remiss not to mention just how surprising the nominations were. There were audible gasps from the journalists at the live-streamed announcement ceremony in January when both Best Director frontrunners (Argo‘s Ben Affleck and Zero Dark Thirty‘s Kathryn Bigelow) were passed over for nominations, leaving us to wonder: Can Argo pull off the win everyone expects without Affleck on the roster? The Director category is a historical determining factor for Best Picture, given:

  • About three-fourths of all Picture winners also win Director, and
  • A mere three films ever have scored Picture without a nom for Director. And it’s only happened once (1989’s Driving Miss Daisy) in the last eighty years. Good luck defying those odds, Argo.


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Now playing in Providence: Argo, Robot & Frank, and more

There’s a certain sweet spot as far as Hollywood’s historical films are concerned: that elusive topic that is simultaneously thrilling and relatively unknown. The unknown factor breeds curious hype, the thrills big box office returns. Argo, the most recent offer from actor-turned-startlingly-competent-director Ben Affleck, hits this spot perfectly by detailing a lesser-known chapter of the Iran hostage crisis.

Based on the true story of a CIA extraction operation popularly known as the “Canadian Caper,” Argo follows the efforts of CIA operative Tony Mendez (Affleck) in his attempt to rescue a group of American diplomats who successfully escaped the U.S consulate in Iran immediately before it was overrun by a mob of nationalist Iranian students. The students imprisoned the consulate staff in a Khomeini-sanctioned hostage situation that went on to last for over a year. Cooperating with the Canadian government and its ambassador to Iran (at whose house the six escaped staff members were hiding), the CIA devised an elaborate plan to send in an agent posing as a producer scouting locations for a Star Wars-themed science fiction knockoff with “a Middle Eastern vibe,” titled Argo.

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