That there is a category for Foreign Language Film tells you everything you need to know about the Oscars. Still, a few things about this year’s cinematic fashion show have managed to get past my old codger’s cynicism…
I’m pleased that The Artist and Hugo have done well. I love the former and I hear great things about the latter.
I’m particularly pleased that A Separation won the said Foreign Language category, partly because of something I mentioned in a previous post re the importance of diversity (different stories) in cinema:-
…goes some way to explaining why I think cinema – that is, a diverse cinema which reflects the experiences of people from all corners of the world, from every walk of life – is such a potentially important, enriching, enlightening, and empowering force. If, for example, you have seen the films of Abbas Kiarostami, or Asghar Farhadi’s recent A Separation, it is difficult to read or view news reports about Iran in quite the same way; to interpret these reports without being reminded of the humanity of Kiarostami’s and Farhadi’s characters, to be reminded of the many people just like us who are going about their daily lives in that country.
So I was immediately drawn to this Guardian piece by Saeed Kamali Dehghan discussing the reaction within Iran to news of the Oscar success:-
A Separation has become the first movie ever to take an Academy Award to Iran after winning the best foreign language Oscar, prompting national celebration at a critical time in the country’s history.
Millions of Iranians stayed up all night to watch the film’s director, Asghar Farhadi, going up on the stage and delight his countrymen at a time when their lives are clouded with fear of war with Israel and crippling economic sanctions.
“At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy,” said Farhadi, while accepting the Oscar. “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.”
He added: “”I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilisations and despise hostility and resentment.”
How do Iranians feel about this?:-
Within few minutes of winning an Academy Award, Iranians took to the social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook, congratulating themselves on A Separation’s success at the Oscars.
“Imagine Iranians are now waking up to find the world is talking about its cinema, not its nuke, for a change,” said Iranian journalist, Reza Asadi, on his Twitter account.
How different from the Iranian authorities:-
Despite generating patriotic sentiments among ordinary Iranians, Tehran leaders have been sceptical about the film’s worldwide success, especially in the United States which they consider as a sworn enemy.
A Separation was originally produced with permission from the Iranian government. But in the face of its success, the regime has not publicly denounced the film but many of its supporters have publicly spoken against it. In a programme broadcast in the state-run television, Masoud Ferasati, an Iranian writer whose views are close to those of the Islamic regime, said: “The image of our society that A Separation depicts is the dirty picture Westerners are wishing for.”
So, a great film has been given some much deserved extra publicity, and perhaps a few more people will come to see Iran as a country of ‘many stories’, not just the one that dominates the news.
Oh, and one other thing about this year’s Oscars, it has also lead me to watch the winning Animated Short Film: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore. It’s rather sentimental, but beautifully crafted – well worth a look:-
I’ve just come across the following Guardian article (thanks to Jonathan Rosenbaum posting a link) which talks about the reaction in Israel to A Separation winning an oscar:-
When Oscar-winning Iranian film-maker Asghar Farhadi spoke of the importance of recognising his country’s glorious and essentially peaceful culture at a time of “war, intimidation and aggression” he might have wondered if anyone in Israel was listening. At the very least, film buffs in the Jewish nation seem to have got the message, because they are turning out in large numbers to watch Farhadi’s best foreign film Academy Award winner A Separation at cinemas.
The film’s fledgling box-office success in a country whose leaders are currently considering a pre-emptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities is all the more remarkable because A Separation was up against Israeli drama Footnote, a Talmudic scholar saga from film-maker Joseph Cedar. The film is being shown mostly at the seven Israeli sites owned by Lev Cinemas, whose CEO Guy Shani said all screenings were sold out on Friday and Saturday. “We are being helped a lot by the press in Israel,” Shani told the Associated Press, adding that the threat of war between the two countries had helped to draw viewers.
Yair Raveh, a leading Israeli film critic who writes for the Pnai Plus entertainment magazine, said his countrymen were often surprised to note that Iranians did not seem all that different from themselves. “It’s very well acted, exceptionally well written and very moving,” he said of the film. “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 exactly like us.”
Filmgoer Rina Brick, 70, said she was surprised to see that the Iranian bureaucrats portrayed in the film did not behave very differently to those in Israel.