Iran’s success in Oscar race: When film wins over politics

Iran’s success in Oscar race: When film wins over politics

EMRAH GÜLER ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Iran’s success in Oscar race: When film wins over politics

Asghar Farhadi, director of ‘A Separation,’ poses with the Oscar statue on Feb 26 at the 84th Academy Awards ceremony. AP Photo

Yesterday morning, Iranians woke to the news of “victory over Israel,” declared all over state TV. It was victory all right, and it was victory over Israel. But it was also victory over Belgium, Canada and Poland, as well. Sunday night’s win was Iran’s first ever Oscar, with the award for Best Foreign Language Film going to director and writer Asghar Farhadi’s drama “A Separation.”

Upon the film’s win in the world’s biggest movie award ceremony, the Iranian state was quick to change its earlier nonchalant attitude. The hard-liners who had previously dismissed “A Separation” - for its not-so-positive portrayal of the country, its take on gender inequality and its sub-plot involving Iranians’ desire to leave the country for better lives elsewhere - were silent in the face of the celebrations across country.

The head of Iran’s Cinematic Agency, Javad Shamaghdari, even went so far as to describe the Oscar win as the “beginning of the collapse of the influence of the Zionist lobby over American society.”
Farhadi, on the other hand, sent a quiet and peaceful message to his country when he took to stage to receive his Oscar. Talking about the “many Iranians all over the world watching us,” he said: “They are happy not just because of an important award, or a film, or a filmmaker, but because – at a time of tug of war, intimidation, and aggression exchanged between politicians – the name of their county, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.”

The Israeli state may not view Iran’s Oscar win over their contender, “Footnote” - a film about a complicated relationship between father and son Talmudic scholars - as a victory for Iran. But Israeli audiences have been flocking to theaters to get a sneak peek into lives in a country they see as the ultimate threat.

Extent of propaganda

In a recent Associated Press story, the Israeli reaction to the release of “A Separation” two weeks ago revealed the extent of propaganda by Israel against Iran. Yair Raveh, a film critic for Israel’s entertainment magazine, Pnai Plus, said: “Ultimately, you don’t think about nuclear bombs or dictators threatening world peace. You see them driving cars and going to movies, and they look like us.”

Another viewer said: “I was surprised by the way people lived in their houses. Everyone had a fridge and a washing machine.” While another, in fact a political science professor, said: “What a contrast that we watch this Iranian film with such admiration, and then when we leave we think about how they want to kill us.” When art enters into the scene, differences and hostility dissipate. Earlier, when both Iranian and Israeli nominations were announced, the director of “Footnote,” Joseph Cedar, said there was “something poetic” about Israel and Iran both being nominated. And Farhadi completed his Oscar speech by saying that the people of his country “respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment.”

Two days before the Oscar ceremony, Iranian and Israeli artists came together in a display of peace. “At the Academy event in honor of the foreign films, we sat, spoke and all the veils came off,” Lior Ashkenazi, one of the stars of “Footnote,” told Israel’s Army Radio. “They are warm hearted people. We invited them to Tel Aviv and they invited us to Tehran.” Amid all the toxic political noise, these words sound like the summer breeze.