The night of the Oscar awards in Los Angeles’ Kodak Theatre saw unforgettable ambiguities.
When Asghar Farhadi’s brilliant familial drama, A Separation, won the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Picture, it was the first ever Academy Award for Iran. In fact, Iranian films have been nominated only twice before, the first time in 1999 for Children of Heaven. It did not win.
Soon after A Separation clinched the Oscar, Tehran said in an official statement that the victory ought to be seen as one over Israel, whose movie, Footnote, was also nominated in the same category.
But then, Farhadi was not one to be bullied into mouthing political sweet-nothings. He placed culture over politics. And gave an acceptance speech that was elegant, wonderfully nuanced and so starkly different from the usual Hollywood gibberish of I love Mama, I love Papa, I love You All!
Farhadi said:”At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy. They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or a filmmaker, but because at the time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture.
“A rich and ancient culture that has been under the heavy dust of politics. I proudly offer this honour to the people of my country, a people who respect all cultures and civilisations, and despise hostility and resentment. Thank you very much”.
Farhadi in a single stroke of sincerity buried the bloodiness of war, and resurrected the glory of culture.
I am sure at that moment the millionaire club in full attendance at Kodak would have forgotten Billy Crystal’s jaded jokes, Angelina Jolie’s red pout and skin show and Meryl Streep’s fake disbelief (on winning the Oscar for the Best Actress in An Iron Lady).
In contrast, Farhadi was restrained, sombre and, above all, honest. There was no pretence.
What is more, A Separation, besides being nominated for the Best Screenplay Oscar, was easily far better than Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist, which won the Academy Award for the Best Picture. One columnist in Asia Times wrote that “A Separation is the best movie of 2011 in any language. The Artist is a divertissement. A Separation is about all of us - how we deal, as human beings, with our six degrees of separation.
“A Separation is an immensely political film - without even referring to politics. It depicts the politics of everyday life, which is trespassed by institutional politics in a complex, seamless way. In Farhadi's words, ‘Smaller problems that you can't really see’ intersecting with big problems. It's all so seamless, in fact, that Iran's rigid censors didn't even detect it”, the columnist added.
But with all this publicity that Farhadi’s work has been garnering now, the Iranian Government may wake up.