Last night's Academy Award ceremonies brought great news to Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose film A Separation won the award for best foreign film. It is the first time that honor has gone to an Iranian film.
Movie watchers wanting to know more about Iranian cinema and the Iranian cinema industry can look to books by Negar Mottahedeh and Hamid Naficy for context. Mottahedeh's 2008 book Displaced Allegories looks at the role of women and gender in Iranian film. On the news of Farhadi's Oscar, she says, " I think it's a marvelous win and well deserved. A Separation's brilliant engagement with domesticity and the unliveability of life for women under the Islamic Republic aside, the film is a rare rendition of contemporary class conflict in Iran."
Hamid Naficy is the author of the four-volume definitive history of Iranian film and the filmmaking industy, A Social History of Iranian Cinema. Volume 4, The Globalizing Era, 1984–2010, covers recent Iranian film, and will be out this fall. Naficy places the Farhadi's win in context: "Sixteen years after the nomination of Jafar Panahi's The White Balloon, Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, was nominated for the best foreign language Oscar. Unlike Panahi’s film, this film is not part of the neorealist inflected, child-centered art-house "festival films," that became a veritable genre, even a cliché. A Separation is an adult film about adult issues, a powerful, provocative, and emotionally wrenching work that explores in an unflinching way divorce, child custody, care of Alzheimer parents, class division, and deceit and lying in Iran's postrevolutionary society. It is an example of the new social issues movies that critically dig below the surfaces, below "the skin of the city" to quote the title of a Banietemad film, to uncover a social cauldron. The film’s closed mise-en-scène and tight shot composition enhance the feeling of seething tensions."
Hopefully this well-deserved Oscar will bring Iranian film to even more cinema fans.