How Iran Produced the Best Film of 2011—and What Americans Can Learn From It : A Separation, Oscar Winner

 The Iranian film A Separation, written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, seems to me the best film of 2011. It is one of the Academy Award nominees for Best Foreign Picture, but by any sense of justice in any nation (let alone the self-assessed greatest in the world) it would have been nominated for Best Picture before anything else. The ways in which the characters in A Separation struggle for truth and honor, while yielding sometimes to compromise and falsehood, is not foreign to us. Few other films made last year give such a striking sense of, “Look—isn’t this life? Isn’t this our life, too?” In a complete world of film-going, we should no longer tolerate the label “foreign film,” especially since it seems likely that a film from France in which the French language remains tactfully silent is going to stroll away with Best Picture. The Artist is a pleasant soufflé, over which older Academy voters can wax nostalgic. But A Separation is what the cinema was invented for.

In Tehran, a married couple argue into the camera in the opening scene, trying to defend and escape from their marriage. Simin (Leila Hatami) wants to leave Iran, taking their eleven-year-old daughter with her, so that they can live in greater liberty. Nader, her husband (Peyman Maadi), is against the separation though resigned to it, but determined that the daughter stay in Tehran with him. He cannot leave, he claims, because he has to look after his father who has deteriorating Alzheimer’s. The court sides with the father, and Simin moves out of their apartment, leaving Nader, his daughter, and the victim of dementia. With a demanding job, Nader cannot manage—Simin was always at home, looking after things—so he seeks to hire a house-sitter. He finds Razieh (Sarey Bayat), a devout wife and mother who knows the pay is not enough, but her husband is unemployed and they are desperate. So she comes to the apartment every day on a long commute, bringing her own young daughter, and she finds that she has to clean the old man when he forgets to go to the bathroom.

Then one day, the old man gets out of the house and Razieh has to rescue him from dense traffic on the street. Soon after that, Razieh has to leave the apartment one day to go on an unnamed errand. She ties the old man to his bed while she is away. When Nader discovers this he is furious—this is abuse of his father. He demands that Razieh quit, and there is a minor clash between them at the door. Razieh is also pregnant and it seems that in the confusion she may have been so injured in that scuffle that she suffered a miscarriage.

That is a lot of story (though by no means the whole thing), and one of the most gripping things about A Separation is the way that its relentless forward action never slackens. Farhadi is nominated for his original script, and I think that’s because Academy screenwriters recognize what a masterly piece of construction this is. The film is a few minutes over two hours, and it is crammed with aspects of character and revelations in the action that require and reward close attention. Just about everyone in the picture behaves badly at times and well at others, and in every instance the plausibility of the situation is unquestioned.

At the Berlin festival of 2011, not only did A Separation win the top prize, the Golden Bear, but the acting prizes were shared by Leila Hatami and Sareh Bayat, and by Peyman Maadi and Shahab Hosseini, who plays Razieh’s husband. My only quarrel with that decision is the omission of Sarina Farhadi (the director’s daughter) who is brilliant as the daughter, Termeh. You can say this is a demonstration of an ensemble cast, but that is only half the story. The passion and texture of the film come from the idea that existence is already an ensemble, that lives are contingent on other lives, all the time. The shooting of the film is simple and concise (it only cost $500,000) and the director does nothing to distract us from the people and their problems. You would have to say it is a realist film, yet the complexity in its relationships makes the post-war classics of Italian neo-realism seem quaint and superficial.

I will not spoil the ending for you, or the material that precedes the ending, but the movie asks the audience to make up its own mind about what could and should happen. This is where its national character becomes relevant. A Separation is in the Persian language. I have never been to Iran. But, like you, I live in a country that is steadily being taught to believe that Iran is wicked and dangerous and the probable object of justified military action. It’s worth pointing out that on the Internet there were early comments to the effect that A Separation would surely not be released in Iran, because it contains many elements critical of that society—like the wife wanting to leave the country for a freer life. In fact, A Separation opened in Iran months before it came to this country; it did well, and was not interfered with by authorities.

You cannot watch the film without feeling kinship with the characters and admitting their decency as well as their mistakes. The American films made this year that deal with the internal detail and difficulty of family life—like The Descendants—are airy, pretty and affluent compared with A Separation. With the best will in the world, George Clooney cannot discard his aura of stardom, yet the actors in the Iranian film seem caught in their characters’ traps. That point about affluence is worth dwelling on. In 2011, not many American films dealt with money and its shortage in lifelike ways. It hurts The Descendants, I think, that its people are so well-heeled. Yet the common experience of the nation is the desperate effort to stretch money. A Separation is full of that and it works on the assumption that the means of life are vital to the way it is lived. It is a great film, the best from last year, and a model of how films can be made. In addition, it seems a lesson in our need to look at the truth of Iran, as closely as we should have insisted on the facts about Iraq and so many other things.


  1. Sahil19
    February 29, 2012 at 8:26 AM

    Beautiful movie. Saw it a month ago, it was wonderful experience. never seen an Iranian film, but after hearing the universal acclaim for an iranian film, i was captured by the it. Iran wins an OSCAR which bollywood has failed to do for long time.

  2. prg
    February 29, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    watched it some 2 months ago…. loved it

Page 1 of 1

Post Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

order cialis 50mg buy viagra fedex cialis generic problem celebrex 400 mg cap buying cialis cheaper viagra 100 mg din buying valtrex cheap cialis thailand buy khasiat cialis 20 mg generic wellbutrin appearance buy strattera generic xenical 120 mg walmart generic lexapro dreaming obat doxycycline 10mg xenical 120mg capsules 42 hydrochlorothiazide 25 mg tablets 100mg clomid success cheap cialis 40 priligy de 60 mg zithromax 750 mg enough 99 generic viagra pret diflucan 50 mg wellbutrin dosage 75 mg blue generic viagra prezzo cialis generico celebrex 400 mg pret novo doxycycline 100mg zithromax buy online canadian mailorder viagra original viagra online zoloft tablets 100mg 50 mg viagra cheap generic zoloft pregnancy cialis cuantos mg augmentin 500 mg tid levitra 40mg effectiveness kamagra 50mg apteka zoloft 100 mg anxiety cheap viagra net cialis generic compare jual viagra online using 5mg cialis cialis 5mg ejaculation viagra online reviews levitra 20 mg fiyat generic lexapro 10mg online viagra dangers zoloft 100 mg recreational cialis 10mg reviews wirkung viagra 100 mg doxycycline hyclate 1oomg taking prednisone 20 mg nexium generic uk doxycycline 50mg online regalis generic cialis generic viagra bbb headache cialis 20 mg cialis 100mg tablet levitra 2 5mg generic viagra formula viagra 25mg pfizer cialis 5 y 20 mg xenical de 120 mg generic zoloft buy viagra 100mg cheap comprare kamagra online diflucan 150 mg prospecto metformin 500 mg tabl clomid generic multiples 40 mg lisinopril online cialis 0.25mg prednisone 5mg pregnancy get lisinopril online kesan clomid 50 mg is generic cialis lisinopril 2.5 mg daily farmacias online viagra 30 day 5mg cialis nolvadex 20 mg day buy levitra insurance ciprofloxacin generic cipro viagra generico 2011 diflucan buy generic clomid 50mg 100mg cialis fc 10 mg tablet augmentin 625mg bought generic cialis apa nexium 20mg purchase levitra online viagra 25 mg wirkungsdauer cialis boots order generic levitra dosage order gaspari nolvadex erythromycin 500 mg pills viagra 50 mg kaufen bugiardino levitra 10 mg cipro online safe zoloft buy pypal propranolol al 40 mg amoxil 500 mg espanol riva metformin 500 mg viagra mexico online viagra pills cheap generic chinese viagra farmacie online xenical generic viagra korea generic viagra kolkata dapoxetine generic india wellbutrin 600 mg pct nolvadex buy levitra 30mg prices buy dapoxetine treatment doxycycline cheap online cialis 20mg dosage augmentin tab 875 mg propecia cost 5 mg order cialis holland viagra 100mg dose 500mg cialis cheap doxycycline buying augmentin 625 mg dosis doxycycline tablets 150mg wellbutrin sr 50 mg order prednisone online cialis generic walgreens propiedades celebrex 200 mg viagra gold 300mg viagra professional150 mg cialis 10 mg tab 12.5mg of viagra generic lisinopril recall 5mg of propecia clomid reviews 100 mg doxycycline 100mg medicine soft cialis 40 mg levitra online generic online viagra kauf buy lisinopril generic cialis 20 mg docmorris generic valtrex brands cialis 2.5 mg walgreens viagra bh mg buy pct nolvadex ervaringen clomid 150 mg lexapro generic antidepressant taking 40mg cialis clomid vs generic cialis schweiz online beli cialis 20 mg nolva clomid buy tesco online viagra costo lasix 25 mg 100mg clomid spotting levitra generico ems viagra online acquisto buying glucophage online doxycycline 100mg antibiotics buy vardenafil dapoxetine metformin online kaufen cheap black cialis valtrex medication online 500mg valtrex uses viagra tem generico cheapest brand cialis augmentin 400 mg chewables obat valtrex 500mg lasix 500 mg rumania nexium 20mg alcohol 150 mg prednisone ok zoloft overdose mg 300mg zoloft notice xenical 120 mg propranolol 20 mg bula cialis 50mg philippines erythromycin 250mg goi infographics generic viagra synthroid 100 mg daily cheap cialis pharmasy augmentin 625 mg composition diflucan 50 mg clomid 100mg eisprong cialis online fda lasix 40 mg presentacion 200mg viagra india cheap genuine propecia buy professional levitra discount propecia 1mg viagra online holland cialis 20mg rezeptfrei clomid 50mg ingredients generic valtrex diflucan 50 mg pret 32 pfizer viagra 100mg propranolol online apotheke uso levitra 20 mg xenical dosage 120 mg lisinopril 30 mg information cialis 2.5 generic cialis 5 mg or 20 doxycycline order canada 5mg lexapro withdrawal hydrochlorothiazide 12.5 mg mylan cialis erfahrungen 10mg viagra online rpg 100mg viagra kaufen indian viagra 100mg augmentin 500mg prospect generic zovirax tab lasix 25 mg controindicazioni zoloft 25 mg vidal strattera generic us online meds viagra cialis india generic augmentin 500mg goi cialis online 50mg generic levitra legal cialis generic romania doxycycline injection 100mg buy xenical 120mg cheap kamagra genuine cialis online 150 mg viagra overnight augmentin generic drug issues generic lexapro amoxil 500 mg indications buy cialis 121doc results 0,25mg propecia lasix 200 mg iv harga nexium 20 mg guna nexium 20 mg nexium to buy buy xenical roche cytotec misoprostol 200 mg zovirax generic canada prednisone 5mg take generic strattera 60mg doxycycline 400 mg acne 20mg prednisone dog viagra 100 mg annostus 50 mg zoloft dose erfahrungen levitra 10 mg synthroid dosage mg online women viagra clomid online sales buspar 60 mg daily 25 mg phenergan metformin tablet mg viagra 50 mg brand augmentin online kaufen order xenical cheap viagra online beratung cialis 20 mg dosis online levitra tablet prednisone mylan 1 mg taking cialis 40 mg valtrex 5oo mg lexapro tabletas 20 mg kegunaan lasix 20 mg prednisone 5mg tapering amoxil 500 mg chlamydia canadian cheap viagra 600 mg diflucan valtrex generic cheap strattera 20mg capsule qual generico viagra erythromycin 250 mg suspension costo viagra 100 mg cialis 2mg price lasix 500 mg pret viagra pro 100 mg merks generics propecia valtrex 500 mg pret cytotec 25 mg cheapest lexapro price 1000 mg zithromax online kamagra 50 mg kopen generic strattera 100mg kamagracheaper kamagra jelly cutting 20mg levitra doxycycline 100mg bp Online Levitra pills buy nexium usa amoxil vet 200 mg cialis online cyprus 10 mg dosage prednisone augmentin 625 mg suspension buy viagra paypal buspar 15 mg recreational 1 mg viagra propecia online vendita stockholm buy viagra viagra 25 mg fiyati viagra online vietnam lexapro new generic zovirax 250 mg lexapro generic 10 mg order propecia men metformin glucophage online diflucan 100 mg controindicazioni cheap generic viagra 150 doxycycline hyc 100 mgs celebrex 200mg erfahrungen cheap price cialis valtrex 1000 mg buy generic viagra ert 100 levitra 20mg cena 50mg of viagra cialis 5 mg o 10 propecia 1 online doxycycline 150 mg identification walgreens lisinopril generic diflucan 2mg buy propecia 90 buy periactin cheap buy super kamagra cialis 5mg singapore cialis 20 mg contrassegno lisinopril 10 mg cena diflucan 20mg drops cheap cialis brand cialis 100 mg sahte buy professional viagra cheapest indian viagra strattera mood disorder cheapest cialis pills lisinopril 5 mg buy online levitra lasix 40 mg rate lasix 20 mg injection purchase hydrochlorothiazide online buy celebrex 200mg cialis 5 mg generique cialis 10 mg dosing xenical 120mg srilanka order bactrim fast their generic lexapro mail order valtrex kamagra 100mg bes generic viagra euro zovirax 800 mg price cialis 2 5mg bula 5 mg di cialis cialis 20 mg venezuela viagra 50 mg prices existe cialis generico 10mg cialis review cheap viagra 100 mg viagra 120 mg tablets nexium 40 mg tabs cheapest priligy uk 100mg doxycycline review refill cialis 10mg nolvadex 20mg ip metformin 500 mg effect buy clomid therapy canadian generic nexium Levitra pills Buy cipro hexal 750 mg order lexapro cheap online viagra cialis 20 mg metformin arena 1000 mg generic wellbutrin problems lisinopril 40 mg price cheap cialis 80 mg lexapro online reviews nexium 40mg laboratorio 200mg zoloft cialis tablets 10 mg forum generic viagra propecia 5 mg viagra minium mg buy viagra bulk turkey generic viagra online viagra mexico viagra online uae generic viagra plane clomid 25mg success cialis generico italia clomid 100mg instructions augmentin sirop 600 mg wellbutrin hcl 75mg wellbutrin 250 mg cialis australia cheap generic to nexium dosage levitra 15mg viagra de 100mg levitra online 5mg inexpensive generic viagra propecia 1mg discount generico viagra 25mg generic viagra japan erythromycin 5oomg amoxil syrup 250mg online viagra vipps buy vibramycin doxycycline kesan clomid 150mg 50 mg clomid eod buy viagra atlanta 2 pills 10mg cialis lisinopril 10 mg watson 407 vibrox doxycycline 100mg 30 mg of zoloft clomid 100mg follicles xenical australia buy wikipedia generic cialis kamagra cheap supplies buying 5mg propecia order phenergan online Cialis 20mg 90 Tabs xenical 150 mg price 10 mg prednisone tablets online cialis legitimate celebrex 200 mg dosierung cipro sale online generic wellbutrin reviews generic levitra 10 zovirax buy kamagra buy paypal buy doxycycline internet tetracycline 200mg zovirax 250 mg bula buy chinese nexium cialis 10mg bestellen levitra srbija online stopping propranolol 40mg 100mg viagra strength cialis 10 mg pret cialis giornaliero generico viagra sklep online lisinopril 20 12.5 mg diabetes doxycycline 100mg antimalarial augmentin 875 mg uti local generic viagra viagra online 50 mg brand levitra 5mg generic lexapro nausea prezzo levitra 5 mg cialis 20 mg dividere phenergan 25mg tablets 50 generic wellbutrin actavis buy priligy 30mg cheap propecia usa lisinopril generic 10 mg zoloft 50 mg indications cnn wellbutrin generic levitra 20 mg mexico diflucan 150mg buy lasix tbl 20mg nexium in generic phenergan generic pill amoxil 250 mg capsules strattera 100 mg buy viagra generic true viagra kamagra 100mg cost generic viagra generic strattera .80 mg cheaper viagra alternatives buy celebrex discount propecia generic manufacturer buy zithromax online 1.00 lisinopril 5 mg identification 25 mg phenergan iv viagra 150 mg pills mexico cialis generico generic viagra paypal cialis brazil buy cialis 10 mg avis khasiat glucophage 850 mg doxycycline 110 mg bactrim f 500mg strattera 60 mg atomoxetine levitra generico 20 mg cheap buy viagra cialis 20 mg apteka propranolol clorhidrato 10 mg pink viagra online 25 mg viagra etkisi bula viagra 50mg prednisone 1 mg dogs priligy generico prezzo cipro 750 mg tehlikelimi generic levitra good generic viagra women usa cheap viagra doxycycline 100mg capsules viagra 50 mg tabs generic cialis thailand price 200 mg celebrex zoloft dosage 50 mg metformin hcl buyers 1000 mg metformin hcl strattera 18 mg generic hydrochlorothiazide 50 mg tab 60 mg levitra cheap 40 mg cialis glipizide metformin 5 500 mg achat cialis 20 mg