Based on predictions by crystal ball gazers and film critics, Iran is poised to win its first ever best foreign language film Oscar trophy during the forthcoming 84th edition of the award.
A Separation, directed by Asghar Farhadi, appears a heavy favorite based on a poll conducted by the website indieWire. The other nominees for the category are Belgium’s Bullhead by Michael R. Roskam, Canada’s Monsieur Lazhar by Philippe Falardeau, Israel’s Footnote by Joseph Cedar and Poland’s In Darkness by Agnieszka Holland.
The film has already received universal acclaim, winning the Golden Bear in the 61st Berlin International Filmfest and chosen as the best foreign language film in the 69th Golden Globe Awards. In 2009, Director Farhadi won the best director award in Berlin for his film About Elly.
It was also voted as the second best film of 2011 in the annual Sight & Sound critic poll and the LA Weekly film poll, as well as number 3 in the indieWire critic survey, number 4 by Film Comment Magazine and number 5 in Paste Magazine’s 50 best movies of 2011. Critic Roger Ebert ranked it number one on his Best Films of 2011, saying: “A Separation will become one of those enduring masterpieces watched decades from now.”
The film focuses on the separation of an Iranian middle-class couple, married for 14 years with an 11-year-old daughter, Nader and Simin. The wife wants to leave Iran with her family as she does not want her daughter to grow up under the prevailing conditions in the country. But her husband refuses to leave his elderly father who has Alzheimer’s Disease. Simin files for divorce and Nader hires a lower-class caretaker for his father.
At the film’s finale, the couple’s separation is made permanent in a family court and the daughter is asked to decide whether she wants to live with her mother or her father. The girl tearfully says that she has made the decision but requests that the judge ask her parents to wait in the hallway before revealing it.
The film ends with the SHOT of Nader and Simin waiting silently and separately in the hallway. The end credits roll with the viewers not learning of the young daughter’s decision.
According to wikipedia, A Separation was the best-reviewed film of 2011.
Deborah Young of the Hollywood Reporter wrote: “Just when it seemed impossible for Iranian filmmakers to express them-selves meaningfully outside the bounds of censorship, Asghar Farhadi’s Nader and Simin, A Separation comes along to prove the contrary. Apparently simple on a narrative level yet morally, psychologically and socially complex, it succeeds in bringing Iranian society into focus for in a way few other films have done.”
Lee Marshall of Screen Daily wrote: “Showing a control of investigative pacing that recalls classic Hitchcock and a feel for ethical nuance that is all his own, Farhadi has hit upon a story that is not only about men and women, children and parents, justice and religion in today’s Iran, but that raises complex and globally relevant questions of responsibility, of the subjectivity and contingency of telling the truth, and of how thin the line can be between inflexibility and pride— especially of the male variety—and selfishness and tyranny.”
Alissa Simon of Variety called it Farhadi’s strongest work yet and wrote: “Tense and narratively complex, formally dense and morally challenging…The provocative plot casts a revealing light on contempo Iranian society, taking on issues of gender, class, justice and honor as a secular middle-class family in the midst of upheaval winds up in a conflict with an impo-verished religious one.”
After winning in Berlin, Farhadi commented that the film’s victory offered “ a very good opportunity to think of the people of my country, the country I grew up in, the country where I learned my stories—a great people.”
But in September of 2010, Farhadi was banned from making the film by the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance because of his acceptance speech in an award ceremony where the director expressed support for several Iranian film personalities, specifically wishing to see the return to Iranian cinema of Mohsen Makhalbaf, an exiled filmmaker and Iranian opposition leader, and the imprisoned political filmmaker Jafar Panahi, both of whom had been connected to the Iranian Green Movement. The ban was lifted in October after Farhadi claimed to have been misperceived and apologized for his remarks.
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