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Mon, Nov. 14 at 7pm – Taken Hostage: An American Experience Special, Part 1

Meaghan Lanctot
Courtesy of GBH/PBS
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Unfolding like a political thriller, Taken Hostage is a riveting four-hour two-part documentary film about the Iran hostage crisis, 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 U.S. and Iran and forever upend the focus and direction of American foreign policy.

Part One | Mon, Nov. 14 at 7pm
The program chronicles America’s attempt to remake Iran in its image, beginning with the 1953 overthrow of the first democratically elected government in Iran, orchestrated by British and American forces, and America’s subsequent support for the dictatorial regime of the Shah of Iran. The episode culminates with the violent Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 that toppled the Shah and established a fundamentalist theocracy led by Ayatollah Khomeini.

Tune in on the WSIU stations: WSIU 8.1, WUSI 16.1, WSEC 14.1, WQEC 27.1 and WMEC 22.2 or access the WSIU local broadcast livestream online at pbs.org or via the PBS Video app. American Experience Taken Hostage will stream simultaneously with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms and will also be available for streaming with closed captioning in English and Spanish. Get extended access to this program and more with WSIU Passport.

American Experience on WSIU TV is made possible by local program sponsor Sangamon Mass Transit District

About the Program
Taken Hostage also explores the backstory of how America became mired in the Middle East and the nation’s role in igniting the firestorm that has consumed the most strategically important part of the world for the last 40 years. Part One chronicles America’s quarter-century of unwavering support for its ally, the Shah of Iran, despite his dictatorial and increasingly brutal and corrupt regime. The film traces the Shah’s program to rapidly modernize and westernize Iran in the span of a single generation and portrays in harrowing detail the violent Islamic revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979, sending shockwaves around the world. Part Two explores the holding of the hostages at the American embassy in Tehran by militant Islamic students, with the support and encouragement of the Iranian government led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The film details how the crisis degenerated into what is arguably the most consequential foreign policy debacle of the second half of the 20th century. The Iran Hostage Crisis laid the groundwork for the modern 24-hour news cycle, inspired an escalating cycle of political terrorism and brought down the presidency of Jimmy Carter.

The Iranian Revolution
Reportage Archive
TEHRAN, IRAN - JUNE 1980: A group of hostage holders putting fire on the Amercian flag on the roof of the occupied U.S. embassy during the U.S. hostage crisis which was a diplomatic crisis between Iran and the United States where 52 U.S. diplomats were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981, after a group of Islamist students took over the American embassy in support of the Iranian revolution. (Photo by Reza/Reportage by Getty Images)

Taken Hostage is told largely through the lens of the exceptional love story of former hostage Barry Rosen and his wife Barbara, who was suddenly thrust into the public eye as the crisis dragged on. Other key figures are Hilary Brown and Carole Jerome, two pioneering female foreign correspondents who risked their lives to uncover the truth of what was happening in Iran. Jerome had remarkable inside access to the highest levels of the Iranian government through her relationship with Iran’s foreign minister and chief hostage negotiator, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, who lost his life trying to stop the Iranian Revolution from devolving into a tyrannical theocracy. Gary Sick, a senior member of President Carter’s national security team and longtime Iran expert, recounts how the crisis engulfed the American government and consumed Carter’s presidency. Utilizing recently declassified military documents and an interview with Colonel James Q. Roberts, a member of the top-secret American commando unit, the film reveals details of the failed attempt to rescue the hostages in a daring Special Forces operation. With no narration, Taken Hostage uses the candid, personal testimony of those whose lives were upended to tell the story of these dramatic, history-making events.

With over a decade of experience in public media, Stackhouse serves as the Assistant Director of Digital Services for WSIU Public Broadcasting. The Digital Service department supports the promotion of the station’s digital content and services including social media, web-based membership services and activities, and marketing and communications. Stackhouse's professional goals include creating an inclusive environment where media students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale can gain experience and professional development opportunities in various aspects of the broadcasting industry.
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