Director Asghar Farhadi won the Best Foreign Language Film last night at the Academy Awards for his film A Separation. And the Iranian had a message he delivered in a handwritten speech:
At this time, many Iranians 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.
I read this as a rebuke to politicians on both sides who have amped up the rhetoric in recent weeks. He criticizes the leaders of the Islamic Republic for hiding the beautiful culture of Iran. And he criticizes politicians on these shores, who fail to distinguish between those figureheads of the Islamic Republic and the ordinary people who would be so affected by war. In the rush to settle this conflict with bombs and guns, nobody has stopped to remember the people.
As Juan Cole writes, the subject of A Separation has a dual meaning as well:
But there is one feature of the film that is political in a US context, as well. The protagonist is charged with murder for causing a miscarriage. That is, the embryo is being viewed as a person by the Iranian judiciary, and so pushing a pregnant woman turns into a charge of murder.
Isn’t that where Rick Santorum and the religious Right, want to take the US, in the direction of the Islamic Republic of Iran?
I imagine that Farhadi already found it difficult to operate in Iran as a filmmaker. Now, with his use of the world stage to appeal for respect, it will probably get harder for him. That’s the meaning of courage.
The public in both Iran and the United States don’t want war, and are instead being dragged toward that conclusion by political actors. I hope that more people listen to Asghar Farhadi.