The WGBH Educational Foundation (GBH) is a leading multiplatform creator of public media in America. As the largest producer of content for PBS, it delivers compelling experiences, stories and information to a wide audience. GBH has for decades sought to maintain the highest standards in the production of history, science, and children’s programming, and has succeeded to the extent that its series for both children and adults have become staples of PBS’s national programming schedule.
In 2020, AVDF awarded GBH a two-year grant to support the production of compelling, nationally broadcast film and television programs. One supported film, Taken Hostage, was produced by GBH’s signature history series, American Experience.
Directed by Robert Stone, Taken Hostage premiered on PBS in two parts on November 14-15, 2022. The four-hour documentary tells the story of Iranian student protestors who seized the American Embassy in Teheran on November 4, 1979. Over 50 American diplomats, Marines and civilians were taken during the siege and for the next 444 days, the world watched the transformative Iran hostage crisis, as it came to be known.
The hostage crisis was a pivotal event that had lasting impacts on both the U.S. and Iran, forever shifting the direction of American foreign policy. In Iran, it helped to solidify the revolutionary Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini’s grip on power and radicalized a generation of both Persians and Arabs. In America, it defined President Jimmy Carter’s presidency and instigated a primary challenge from Senator Ted Kennedy that split the Democratic Party.
The event launched the modern 24-hour news cycle and fueled a newly politicized Christian conservative movement that saw in the crisis a clash of civilizations. Taken Hostage uses exclusive audio-only eyewitness accounts and extraordinary archival materials from around the world to share the events of a crucial point in history.
The documentary places America’s first encounter with radical Islam within a larger historical context, exploring the political and cultural ferment that caused it to be such a defining event for the United States. For more information about the documentary, click here.