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US-Iran hostage crisis of 1981 explored in film

scene from the film face the enemy

Scene from Facing the Enemy, a film by VMA Professor Hassan Ildari. 

On January 20, 1981, 52 American hostages held by the ruling Islamic theocracy of Iran for 444 days at the American Embassy in Tehran were set free.

Assistant Visual and Media Arts Professor Hassan Ildari screened his 1991 film, Facing the Enemy, in the Bright Family Screening Room on March 31 in memory of this event. Starring Rosanna DeSoto and George DiCenzo, the film tells a story based on the actual people linked with the 1979 U.S.-Iran hostage crisis. Ildari co-wrote and directed the film after spending almost a decade ruminating on the idea of tyranny and how it was demonstrated on so many levels during the crisis.

“I didn’t have a specific message that I wanted viewers to come away with,” Ildari said. “I didn’t want to show just one side of the story. I was mainly interested in the human’s inexplicable hunger for power, on both American and Iranian terms, and the movie is how I expressed it.”

Ildari was born in Iran, but was living in America during the hostage crisis. He remembers how closely the situation was followed by the news media. “America was captivated and obsessed, for good reason, with the fate of these hostages and how their captivity was progressing. It was what the country went to sleep to every night,” he recalled.

This year marks the 30th year anniversary of the hostage release. Forty of the 52 are still living. Most, if not all, are still battling with the Iranian government for some form of compensation. To keep himself up to date on the current situation, Ildari said that he follows the news regarding both sides.

“Everybody wanted to come out a hero,” he said. “It’s like what we’re seeing in Egypt and Libya right now. No government wants to admit they’re wrong, and it results in violence.” Though Ildari’s movie is now 20 years old, the controversies he focuses on are still very much alive.

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