SQUEEZING IN another blog post before the end of the month, I’ll include a link to a story I wrote for Eureka Street, pondering the recent Oscar win for the Iranian film, A Separation, and the Persian Cultural Crossroads conference I posted about earlier. You can read the Eureka Street story here.
The most positive thing to come from the Oscar win is that Iran made headlines for something different: not war or weapons or bellicose utterances from some official or “mullah”, but a cultural acheivement. Ashgar Farhadi, writer and director of the movie, recognised this as a moment to capitalise on, trumpeting Iran as somewhere with a rich and venerable culture rather than just as somewhere that is anti all things Western. It’s a valid point. Iran boasts millennia of cultural achievement; the anti-Western tilt of the Islamic Republic is little over 30 years old, and, I’d wager, not very deep rooted.
The Tehran regime had no time for conciliatory statements or expressions of friendship such as Farhadi made. State TV initially trumpeted the award as a triumph over Zionism, on the basis that the Israeli film Footnote was also nominated for Best Foreign Film. However, Reuters reports that Israeli and Iranian filmmakers came together at the Oscars, leaving aside such petty rivalries, the Israeli stars of Footnote remarking on the warm-heartedness of the Iranians.
Iranian hardliners subsequently criticised A Separation for its depiction of the grim realities of Iranian life. Yet the Iranian movie has been enthusiastically received in Israel, attracting praise from critics and large crowds of movie goers keen to gain a window into Iranian society.
And it would appear, on the basis of the movie’s international acclaim and the enthusiastic attendance at the State Library of Victoria’s Love and Devotion exhibition, that there is considerable interest out there, people who want to be able to see beyond the sabre rattling and see what really makes Iran tick.