Onscreen and Off
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
These days the U.S. may be making war-like noises toward Iran, but we picked an Iranian movie as the Best Foreign Language Film in the recent 84th Academy Awards. That isolationist country does not seem to share the joy of moviegoers, for Iranian authorities canceled a ceremony to honor the movie’s director, Asghar Farhadi.
“We intended to have a simple and friendly meeting to say ‘thank you’ for the great achievement you brought Iran and Iranian cinema but the cultural custodians did not let us realize this. We deeply regret this,” said a statement from the Center for Directors of Iranian Cinema and the High Council of Producers of Iranian Cinema to the director.
Nonetheless – trying to have it both ways – the Iranian government trumpeted the film’s win over a competitor from Israel, “Footnote.”
Iranian conservatives were upset with “A Separation,” particularly its themes of domestic turmoil, gender inequality, and the desire by many to leave the country.
While public gatherings in Iran require a permit, you can safely gather at the Tropic Cinema to watch this Oscar-winning film.
“A Separation” tells of Nader and Simin, a couple who part ways after 14 years of marriage. The couple’s conflict stems from Simin (played by Leila Hatami) wanting to leave with country because she doesn’t want her daughter to grow up under the oppressive regime. But Nader (played by Peyman Moaadi) opposes the move because he wants to stay and care for his Alzheimer-inflicted father.
When the court rejects Simin’s request for a divorce, she moves in with her parents, forcing Nader to hire a caretaker (Sareh Bayat) for his father. This doesn’t work out, so Nader fires her. In the process the woman falls on the steps and suffers a miscarriage. As a result Nader may be accused of murder, but there are circumstances about the miscarriage that are not clear. Narratively complex, the film challenges the morality of all the characters as the story unfolds.
“A Separation” almost didn’t get made. Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance had banned Asghar Farhadi from making the film after he expressed support for exiled filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaaf. However, the ban was lifted when Farhadi apologized and backed down from his statements.
And now – despite its Academy Award, Golden Bear Award, César Award, Golden Arena Award, Independent Film Spirit Award, and Golden Globe, among many others – the film doesn’t seem to be getting proper recognition in its own country.
No, Iran is not comfortable with its filmmakers. Last year, director Jafar Panahi was sentenced to a six-year house arrest and a 20-year ban on filmmaking after being convicted of “making propaganda” against Iran’s ruling system. And only a few months ago the House of Cinema, an independent film group that included Farhadi among its members, was closed down.
Iran and its filmmakers seem to be experiencing what you might describe as a separation.