The AP reports that the brouhaha centers around an exchange between CIA agent Tony Mendez, played by director Ben Affleck, and his supervisor, Jack O'Donnell. Mendez asks O'Donnell what happened to six Americans who escaped the embassy in Tehran.
"The six of them went out a back exit," O'Donnell replies. "Brits turned them away. Kiwis turned them away. Canadians took them in."
That exchange, which lasted literally seconds, is still reverberating across the island nation five months after the film's release there.
"It's a diabolical misrepresentation of the acts of courage and bravery, done at significant risk to themselves, by New Zealand diplomats," said Winston Peters, a member of parliament who introduced a motion denouncing the film. That motion, which passed uncontested, states in part that Affleck "saw fit to mislead the world about what actually happened."
The AP reports that the outrage is focused on the fact that the film insinuates New Zealand did absolutely nothing to help the Americans, when in fact diplomats from both New Zealand and Britain offered them food and temporary shelter, and even drove them to the airport when they were fleeing Iran. But both countries considered sheltering the Americans long-term too risky, ultimately leading the group to seek refuge at the home of the Canadian ambassador.
Steve Matthewman, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Auckland, said that the harsh reaction is really more representative of New Zealand's insecurities than anything else.
"It's touched a really raw nerve," Matthewman said. "We do seem in New Zealand to be oversensitive to how the rest of the world perceives us."
For more on the story, check out AP's coverage.