Amid hullabaloo about Angeline Jolie's leg, the high-flying exploits of Circus du Soleil, and Octavia Spencer's tearful trip to the podium was a speech that actually has some import beyond the rarified world of Tinsel Town. When Iranian director Asghar Farhadi accepted the best foreign language award for "A Separation," -- which, by the way, is a masterpiece — he inserted himself in an increasingly rancorous geo-political debate. From a hand-written note, the director read the following:
"At this time, many Iranian 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 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 hidden under the heavy dust of politics. I proudly offer this award to the people of my country. A people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment."
Farhadi's plea for peace is a gentle rebuke to leaders in his native Iran — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regularly calls for the state of Israel to be wiped off the map — and to politicians in this country like the GOP presidential hopefuls who pepper their stump speeches with saber-rattling rhetoric about Iran.
Tensions have grown in recent months as the Iranian government seems to have ramped up its nuclear weapons program and Israel has stated that it will resort to the military strikes to prevent that from happening. Many news stories in Iran couldn't help but to point out that "A Separation" beat out Israel's submission "A Footnote."
While Farhadi's comments might be unpopular with certain segments of the population here in the States, they are down-right dangerous in his native country. Iran has punished internationally famous filmmakers before. Director Jafar Panahi, best known in the West for his award-winning movie "The White Balloon" and his latest movie, which he made secretly, "This is Not a Film," was handed a six-year prison sentence and a twenty-year ban on filmmaking for his outspoken criticism of the Ahmadinejad regime.
Farhadi has been able to walk a very fine line between criticism and tacit governmental support. On one hand, "A Separation," a surprisingly suspenseful movie about the divorce of married couple, is one long critical look at how an overwhelmed, ineffectual bureaucracy fails to meet the needs of the people. On the other hand, it is the country, not the filmmakers, who submit movies to the academy for the foreign language category. Farhadi clearly got support from some corner of the government.
We'll see whether the filmmaker is hailed as a hero when he returns to Iran or viewed as a troublemaker or both. Hopefully, it won't prevent him from making more masterful movies in the future.
See the trailer for 'A Separation':
- Asghar Farhadi
- Octavia Spencer