'Desert One' Details the Failed Iran Hostage Rescue That Changed American History

One of the mission's abandoned helicopters as seen in the documentary "Desert One." (Cabin Creek Films/Greenwich Entertainment)

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple will release her new film 'Desert One' on August 21 to mark the 40th anniversary of the failed Delta Force operation to rescue American hostages in Iran. We've got the trailer and a first look at the movie poster.

The film will be available in a theatrical and virtual cinema release. In the cities where theaters have reopened, look for it to play at your local independent movie house. The on-demand release will make the film available to stream via a network that allows viewers to support both the filmmakers and local movie theaters via their rental. We'll have more details about how to rent the movie closer to its release date.

The operation could have changed the course of American history. Fifty-two United States citizens were being held hostage by revolutionaries in Tehran and President Jimmy Carter authorized Special Forces to begin training for a rescue mission.

The 1980 presidential election was looming and a successful extraction could have ignited a wave of patriotic fervor that would've kept Carter in office and altered the course of the next four decades. The mission failed, Carter took full responsibility for the decisions and Ronald Reagan swept into office in November.

The shadow of 1980 hangs over every high-risk mission that a president has ordered since. When you see photos of the Obama administration around the table of the situation room waiting for news about their Osama bin Laden mission, you know that at least some of those faces are thinking about Carter and the Iran hostages.

Delta Force was less than three years old in 1980 and, aside from some successes by Israeli special forces, this kind of non-wartime mission was mostly uncharted territory for military teams. U.S. forces learned many lessons that day and those lessons have informed planning for every mission since.

The film also investigates the perspectives of the hostages and interviews Iranian citizens who encountered the extraction team during its mission.

Director Barbara Kopple won Academy Awards for her 1976 documentary "Harlan County U.S.A." and her 1991 documentary "American Dreams." She's directed documentaries about The Dixie Chicks, Woody Allen, Mariel Hemingway and a meeting between Richard Nixon and Johnny Cash.

"This was a roller coaster ride of a story well worth telling," said Kopple, "It is a film about U.S. leadership and gumption, our leaders taking responsibility -- even when things go wrong -- and courage in the face of adversity. And, of course to address our relations with Iran and hearing their side of the story can make us reflect. This is a story that few remember or even know and it might inspire us now."

We'll have details on exactly how you can see "Desert One" before its August 21 release.

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