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2 or 3 Things I Know About ‘A Separation’

The Iranian film beat the Israeli film and the Polish Holocaust film

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A Separation director Asghar Farhadi.(Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

1. The best film won. Footnote is lovely, but it never soars above the modest confines of a touching family drama. In Darkness is artful, but it is every bit the kind of retrograde, emotional Holocaust drama we’ve seen a hundred times before. A Separation is a masterpiece, the sort of work that nudges its viewers into emotional realms rarely explored by movies anymore.

2. This isn’t about Israel versus Iran. A Separation’s director, Asghar Farhadi, got it just right when he said last night, “At the time when talk of war, intimidation, and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of Iran is spoken here through her glorious culture, her rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.” And Israel, rightfully or not mentioned in the press these days mainly in the context of the obtuseness of its leaders or the savagery of its soldiers, also was being recognized for a beautiful film that explored family and scholarship. It was a rare moment of relevance in a ceremony otherwise very much showing its age; for a moment, the parade of platitudes was interrupted by a speech reminding us that film actually can transcend boundaries, bring people together, and succeed where a thousand other attempts at dialogue have failed.

3. There will always be some who decry the fact that an official Iranian press release celebrating the award referred to the Israeli film as produced by “the Zionist regime,” which, sure, probably isn’t what should happen. And there will always be narrow-minded ninnies who will stress that Farhadi claimed to be too ill to show up to a pre-Oscars press conference with his fellow filmmakers, allegedly to avoid sharing the stage with Israel’s representatives. The bigots are missing two important points. First, Iran’s filmmakers are operating under tight governmental restrictions and Israel, whose Knesset is promoting legislation designed to limit the creation of art work critical of the government and its policies, should not cast the first stone here. And second, besides being a stellar film, A Separation could easily be seen as the best anti-Iranian propaganda to emerge in years. This is a movie whose plot is set in motion after one of the main characters is so fed up with life in Iran that she wants to leave. Anyone who witnesses its depiction of the country’s byzantine justice system, socioeconomic unease, and overall existential bleakness would be hard-pressed to walk away with anything but the most uncharitable of thoughts towards the current Iranian regime.

Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar Speech: The Best of the Night [Slate Browbeat]

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Shmuel says:

Liel – stop bashing others. I could care less about all this film stuff. But if someone is bothered by an Iranian press release saying ‘zionist regime” rather than Israel – that does NOT make them a bigot. So, please, stop judging others so quickly.

Maxwell says:

Good article, though the Knesset comparison is nonsense. In a recent Tablet article, Parvaneh Vahidmanesh mentioned that any work even promoting the concept of peace between Israelis and Palestinians (including hers) was punishable by death in Iran. To compare that to individual members of the Knesset criticizing the decision to hire an anti-Israel propagandist with state money is an absurdly false equivalence.

I agree the brouhaha over an Iranian film winning is absolutely ridiculous. But that claim that Israel is censoring art is equally ridiculous. The government can choose what to spend its money on, and it seems reasonable to not want to enable someone who doesn’t simply have an opposing view, but outright lies about the state’s conduct.

And people who are critical of the Iranian press release and the refusal to appear at a presser are not bigots. I agree it’s stupid to hold the film responsible for the mullah’s propaganda, and I understand the fear the filmmakers may have of appearing with Israelis, but those who see otherwise are not bigots.

Apparently, “Israelis flocked to see A Separation”. Stop lecturing us about our narrow minds.

idit roth says:

wow, and to think that I was reading a balanced view article….
as a Israeli I had empathy for the director who had to read a massage that seemed to be aimed more at his own government then at the world viewers.the comparisons between Israel and Iran are out of touch with reality just like the American view of the Islamic world.

Ephraim says:

It is not anyone in the Israeli government who should reconsider his or her views on a liar like Mohammed Bakri.

Bakri lied through his teeth about the IDF and manufactured a non-existent “massacre” in Jenin so as to blacken Israel’s name and reduce its standing in the eyes of the world, all in order to weaken it so it can be eventually destroyed. His movie was a deliberate, conscious, willful distortion, nothing but a pack of lies, the worst kind of atrocity propaganda. The only “massacre” that took place in Jenin was perpetrated by the Israeli government on its own soldiers, which sent the IDF into a booby-trapped town to fight from house to house, all to prove to the world that the IDF doesn’t “murder” “civilians”. More than 20 soldiers were killed needlessly. The real scandal of Jenin was how the Israeli government decided that the lives of terrorists was more important than the lives of Jewish soldiers.

That a lying dog like Bakri can be gainfully employed in Israel by a Jewish theater is an absolute shande. The people who employ him are no better than kapos and mosers. How can they live with themselves? Any Jew with any self-respect should have nothing whatsoever to do with him.

Denis Charles-Gray says:

What a wonderful commentary on the significance of the Iranian film in the context of our particular vale of tears.
Thank you.

Good one, Liel. The world gets crazier and the babel-like noise of competing narratives noisier every day. So I’m always heartened by reminders that life can be large enough to include, as the sages say, “both this and this…” To spell it out: a filmmaker inside an authoritarian theocracy finds a way to create truthful and beautiful work that can cut through mountains of crap and speak to people across national boundaries. This is, indeed, cause for celebration whenever and wherever it happens in this tired world. Whatever political posturing, fear-and hate-mongering goes on around that event is beside the point, regrettable though it may be. I fear that our deep historical wounds, as Jews, continues to dominate our responses — whether we identify with the right, left, secular, religious, dovish, hawkish or any other flavor on the specturm — to anything that touches on Israel, no matter how indirectly.

“Anyone who witnesses its depiction of the country’s byzantine justice system, socioeconomic unease, and overall existential bleakness would be hard-pressed to walk away with anything but the most uncharitable of thoughts towards the current Iranian regime”.

I imagine that is just how the average Palestinian would feel about their situation.


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2 or 3 Things I Know About ‘A Separation’

The Iranian film beat the Israeli film and the Polish Holocaust film

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