“Taken Hostage” looks back on the hostage crisis in Iran and its consequences

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Anti-Iranian demonstration in the United States, 1979. (Courtesy of Zuma Press)

Robert Stone’s film career was crowned with success.

He was nominated for an Oscar and an Emmy Award. He had films premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.

Still, there was always one topic he wanted to broach – the Iran hostage crisis of the late 1970s.

“I’ve been very frustrated with so many documentaries that cover the US experience in the Middle East,” he says. “I wanted to take a step back and tell the story of how America got so bogged down in the Middle East. It sends us on this new trajectory.

The result is the two-part, four-hour documentary, “Taken Hostage,” which will premiere at 8 p.m. Monday, November 14 and Tuesday, November 15 on New Mexico PBS channel 5.1 and stream on the PBS Video app. . The documentary is part of the “American Experience” series.

Stone reflects on the hostage crisis in Iran, when 52 American diplomats, marines and civilians were taken hostage at the American Embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979.

For the next 444 days, the world watched as the United States received a daily barrage of humiliation, vitriol, and hatred from a country that had long been one of our closest allies.

The crisis would transform both the United States and Iran and forever alter the focus and direction of American foreign policy.

Barry and Barbara Rosen. (Courtesy of Frankie Alduino)

Stone says the documentary delves into the nation’s role in unleashing the firestorm that has devoured the most strategically important part of the world for the past 40 years.

The first part chronicles America’s quarter-century of unwavering support for its ally, the Shah of Iran, despite his increasingly brutal and corrupt dictatorial regime. The film traces the shah’s program to rapidly modernize and westernize Iran within the span of a single generation and depicts in harrowing detail the violent Islamic revolution that toppled the shah in 1979, sending shockwaves around the world. entire.

Part Two explores the holding of hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran by militant Islamic students, with the support and encouragement of the Iranian government led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

“The Iran hostage crisis laid the foundation for the modern news-driving cycle, inspired a growing cycle of political terrorism, and toppled the presidency of Jimmy Carter,” Stone said.

Stone says “Taken Hostage” is told largely through the prism of the exceptional love story of former hostage Barry Rosen and his wife Barbara, which was suddenly thrust into the public eye as the crisis dragged on. Other key figures are Hilary Brown and Carole Jerome, two pioneering foreign correspondents who risked their lives to uncover the truth about what was happening in Iran.

“I hope people understand our relationship with Iran better,” Stone said. “That there are many factions in Iran. There’s a lot to unpack in four hours and we’ve tried to keep it all simple and tell a full story.

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