Advertisement

Former CIA agent offers star power to Maryland International Film Festival-Hagerstown

Tony Mendez, whose work to free six Americans in Iran was the basis of the film 'Argo', said event was 'just like a Hollywood party'

April 11, 2013|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Tony Mendez and his wife, Jonna Mendez, pose for photographers Thursday night as they arrived at The Maryland Theatre for the screening of "Argo" and the kickoff of the second Maryland International Film Festival.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

The excitement began building for the second Maryland International Film Festival-Hagerstown on Thursday afternoon as people crowded into the new location of the Washington County Arts Council for an opening reception and a chance to rub elbows with one of the stars of this year’s festival — Tony Mendez.

Mendez, the former CIA agent whose work to free six Americans in Iran provided the storyline for the Academy Award-winning movie “Argo,” arrived at the arts council at 34-36 S. Potomac St., dressed in a black tuxedo and in the company of his wife Jonna.

Mendez gradually made his way through well-wishers and sat down in a room with his wife, where people waited to chat with the Pleasant Valley resident.

“This is just like a Hollywood party,” said Mendez as people snacked on hors d’oeuvres and sipped drinks.

Hagerstown Community College teacher Candice Mowbray plucked notes on a guitar in a nearby room.

Advertisement

Mendez praised the local arts council for the party, which later moved across the street to The Maryland Theatre, where the screening of "Argo" was scheduled for 6:45 p.m.

“They keep telling me one minute,” Mendez said.

Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham approached Mendez where he was sitting and thanked him for his service to the country. Callaham told Mendez that her husband, Art, is a Vietnam War veteran and told Mendez that she is sure that Art would have passed along praises to Mendez as well.

Jonna Mendez said the whole experience surrounding “Argo” has been surprising and it keeps leading to new adventures.

Jonna said she and Tony traveled to New York three days ago for a Harris Tweed event. Both Ben Affleck, who played Mendez in “Argo,” and Mendez, who was an extra, wore Harris Tweed jackets in the movie and Jonna said her husband was given a new Harris Tweed jacket during the New York event.

Jonna said two days ago, she and Tony traveled to Steubenville, Ohio, to talk to about 800 people about the movie and the couple’s work in the CIA.

“That is what we do now,” Jonna Mendez said. “This has just been such a game changer, it’s amazing.”

Guests remarked about the attractive appearance of the arts council’s new location and said they hope it’s a harbinger of more exciting things to come for the arts in the area.

“It’s good to see this level of energy downtown,” said state Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

Rebecca Massie Lane, director of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, said it was great to have a local celebrity like Mendez to give the festival a boost.

More than 50 movies are scheduled to be screened in the festival, which runs through Saturday. Films will be shown at The Maryland Theatre, Bridge of Life and Academy Theater.

“Argo” depicts Mendez’s actions in 1979, when he helped six Americans escape from Iran. The movie won Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards and also won Best Adapted Screenplay for Chris Terrio.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|