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Comment | A Celebration for 'A Separation'


17 Jan 2012 11:25Comments

Iranians in the film world and beyond cheer Golden Globe victory.

Farhadi1Full.jpg[ comment ] The 2012 Golden Globes became part of Iranian history when Madonna announced the award for Best Foreign-Language Film Sunday night: "From Iran: A Separation." Director Asghar Farhadi and costar Peyman Moaadi stepped forward to receive the Golden Globe. Farhadi's speech was short but memorable. "When I was coming up on stage, I was thinking what I should say here," he declared. "I prefer to say something about my people. They are a truly peace-loving people." It was becoming of the moment and its significance.

Your correspondent has covered the story behind A Separation and the fights over it within Iran. Now he is happy to report that many Iranians feel their hopes were not in vain. Those who advocated for the film feel justified by the award. Ironically, many of them have already found themselves in another fight. A few weeks ago, the government announced it was disbanding Khaneh-ye Cinema, the House of Cinema, also known as the Iranian Alliance of Motion Picture Guilds. It was widely believed that the House of Cinema was being punished for supporting the country's independent directors. The state-affiliated media attacked it and its members with a vengeance.

Previously, Farajollah Salashour, an ideologically correct director with strong political connections, had called the Iranian movie industry "a whorehouse." Many in the field, particularly actresses, spoke back, strongly criticizing Salashour. In turn, the conservative and hardline media went out for blood. Twenty-one media outlets signed a proclamation in support of disbanding the House of Cinema, which the statement called the "safe house of enemies of the country and political system." A group called Ammar Festival issued a declaration: "The House of Cinema has become a club for counterrevolutionary elements who are a fixture of anti-regime statements and programs."

The quarrel attracted public attention -- after all, Iranians do care about their arts community. Many suggested that the actions against the House of Cinema were excessive. Even some conservatives called on the authorities to revoke the disbandment decree. The moderate Ettelaat daily, which usually avoids choosing sides in such issues, made an exception this time: in an editorial, it called for "this sad affair in our culture to end" and to keep the House of Cinema open. Nobody in authority seemed to listen. Now the members of the Iranian motion picture industry can feel proud. While they are attacked at home, they are vindicated and celebrated globally.

Filmmaker Masoud Kimiai wrote in a letter published in Bani Film Daily, "Mr. Farhadi you have lightened our days." Rasoul Sadr Ameli, another director, shared his feelings on the same page: "In these days of misunderstandings, cinema has come to our aid to cure our pain." Director and House of Cinema member Ahmad Reza Darvish went further: "The man who stood on the top of the world and took pride in his people is a member of the House of Cinema. A house threatened by dissolution." Reza Kianian, the noted actor and writer, told Iran Network, "This is a national honor. Farhadi should be congratulated and acknowledged for what he has done." Director Hasan Fathi declared, "After a certain point, some awards do not belong to an individual, they belong to the nation.... This is an honor for our movie industry and it shows to the world that it has original things to say." Pouran Derakhshandeh, a leading female director, called it "the best news I could have heard." The renowned director Bahman Farmanara, an early advocate of A Separation, wrote, "I do not have any share in Asghar Farhadi's success, still I celebrate this great day of Iranian cinema with a cup of coffee." He remembered the day nearly 40 years ago when the first significant foreign honor for an Iranian movie, at the Berlin International Film Festival, was announced: Gaav (The Cow), directed by Dariush Mehrjui.

Many others in Iran have been celebrating A Separation's achievement as well. Adel Ferdosipour, the star TV host whose Barnameye Navad sports show is one of the country's most popular programs, opened Monday evening with applause for Farhadi: "Let me start by congratulating A Separation's success at the Golden Globes." Iranian blogger Mard-e Morde -- Dead Man -- wrote, "Congratulations to a movie that portrays our lives. Instead of speaking of the simplicity of village life, it spoke of the deadly boredom of urban routines."

Farhadi2.jpgThe moment was significant, but not nearly perfect. Leila Hatami and Sareh Bayat, the film's female costars, were notably absent, reminding many of the peculiar paradox popular actresses face in Iran's motion picture industry. They cannot risk attracting too much attention. They are not alone. Farhadi has already come under severe criticism for shaking hands with Angelina Jolie. According to the semioffical Fars News Agency, "It seems Mr. Farhadi has forgot the diplomatic norms and values of our country." Fars added emphatically, "Awards and medals do not matter to our people when it comes to safeguarding our values." No wonder Madonna did not shake hands with Farhadi as he came on stage.

These taints did not stop people from celebrating. Most dailies carried the news, and some moderate and independent papers put it on the front page. The daily Shargh dedicated its entire first page to A Separation. While the authorities passed the occasion in silence, the Iranian people made sure to mark it. Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks were flooded with congratulatory notes. Many compared the moment to the Iranian soccer team's victory over Australia to qualify for the 1998 World Cup.

And the humorous Iranians have found Sunday night's ceremony an occasion to crack yet another joke. A text message has become popular in mobile networks across the country: "This was our Asghar [little brother], wait until our Jafar [big brother, referring to Jafar Panahi] gets out of jail." In that short line, one can detect Iranians' thirst for involvement in the global community and their hunger to show off their pride in their cultural heritage and artistic output. One only can wonder what they might achieve.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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