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Oscars 2012: 'A Separation' lauded as first Iranian Oscar film

February 27, 2012 |  9:36 am

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REPORTING FROM TEHRAN -- It was a film that met with mixed feelings in Iran when it first came out. Was the domestic drama “A Separation” playing to the West by showing a darker side of Iran?

But Tehran wasn’t immune from Oscar mania when the film entered the race for best foreign-language film. Some Iranians stayed up until dawn Monday to watch filmmaker Asghar Farhadi accept the first Academy Award for an Iranian movie. Accolades for Farhadi poured into Iranian newspapers.

“This event is a clear hint that art, in its general meaning, and cinema in particular, are media that are able to help humanity to overcome aggression, enable us to bring our hearts closer to each other, and enable us to have dialogue among civilizations instead of conflicts and clashes,” former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami wrote in an open letter to the filmmaker published in Aftab News.

PHOTOS: 2012 Academy Awards

Javad Shamaqdari, the director of the Iran Cinema Organization, argued its victory was a sign that “American judgment bowed before the Iranian culture and Oscar voters showed a different reaction to the Zionist lobby, which is escalating war,” the Tehran Times reported.

The movie met with some resistance when an Iranian committee was deciding which film to submit to the Academy Awards, Farhadi told The Times last year. Some worried its themes of divorce and murder were too dark. Others said it only pleased the West because it depicted a troubled marriage in Iran.

“I'm not one of the people whose work the government particularly likes,” Farhadi told The Times.

In his acceptance speech Sunday night, Farhardi said, "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."

Feelings about the film in Iran are still mixed despite the Oscar glow. Though the film is a drama about a couple on the verge of splitting up, "A Separation" also resonated with audiences who saw it as an allegory for Iranian politics and society.

“Farhadi depicted the hypocrisy and concealing of truth in our society. He was clever to keep the end of the film open to different interpretations," cinema enthusiast Mohsen Ferdowsi said.

Beforehand, only one film from Iran had been nominated for the foreign Oscar. The win comes at a tense time for Iran, which is facing pressure over its nuclear program. The United Nations atomic watchdog agency faulted Iran for dodging questions and stepping up its production of enriched uranium.

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-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Asghar Farhadi of Iran poses with the Oscar for best foreign language film for "A Separation" during the 84th Academy Awards on Sunday in Los Angeles. Credit: Joel Ryan / Associated Press

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