After the Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation (or, in Farsi, Jodaeiyeh Nader az Simin) won the Oscar award for best foreign language film, he made an appeal to the audience to get beyond the war chatter, politics, and geostrategic posturing, and appreciate Iranian art for what it is: part of the country’s rich and historic culture. His speech, which ThinkProgress’s Alyssa Rosenberg called “by far the classiest, most meaningful speech of the evening,” went:
At this time, many Iranian 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.
Watch a video of the speech, starting at the two-minute mark:
So while Farhadi understood the global context in which he was making his acceptance speech, he sought to rise above it. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of various commentators who framed his award in exactly the way his speech explicitly rejected. Hosts of twitter commentators seized on the award to make quick jokes, but the most notable botched interpretation of the speech came from Farhadi’s own homeland: Iran.
The Iranian state media service trumpeted the Oscar win as a victory over Israel, which had a competing film called Footnote in the Best Foreign Language Film category (in the run-up to the award ceremony, Farhadi shared a dais with his Israeli counterpart). The Associate Press reported:
Iranian state media used the Oscar-winning film to trumpet a success over Israel. The state TV broadcast said the award succeeded in “leaving behind” a film from the “Zionist regime,” the phrase often used in Iran to describe Israel.
The apparent government take on the award not only flies in the face of Farhadi’s own speech, but also against the current of Iranian hardliners’ disdain for the country’s film industry. Long recognized by film critics across the globe (including in Israel), the industry’s taken serious official heat at home. As the Guardian noted, A Separation was made with government permission, but faced harsh criticism from hardliners. They should have paid closer attention to Farhadi’s message Sunday night.