'A Separation' Marks First-Ever Oscar for an Iranian Film

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Lisa Mullins: France was the big winner in last night's Academy Award ceremony. 'The Artist' was mostly a French production. It took home 5 Oscars including for Best Film, Best Actor and Best Director. Iran was a winner as well last night. The Iranian-made 'A Separation' got a prize for the best foreign language film. It's the first Oscar for an Iranian movie. The director, Asghar Farhadi, said that he accepted the award on behalf of his fellow Iranians.

Asghar Farhadi: At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us. I imagine them to be very happy. They're happy not just because of an important award or a film or a filmmaker, but because at the time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country - Iran is the spoken hero 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. Thank you so much [applause].

Mullins: That's Asghar Farhadi, the director of 'A Separation". Many Iranians, as he said, watched the ceremony. They watched it from Iran live on satellite dishes which are illegal in Iran. Iranian State TV later aired clips of Farhadi's acceptance speech and described the film's win as a victory over Israel because an Israeli film had been nominated in the same category. Hassan Ildari is an Iranian-born film maker. He is Professor of Screen-Writing at Emerson College in Boston and as such, I think Hassan, you are likely looking at this through a different lens. How significant a win was this for Iran?

Hassan Ildari: I think it was quite significant. One, from the point of view of an Iranian movie winning, probably, what is considered to be the most important movie award in the world. It's a remarkable achievement. I sincerely share in Asghar Farhadi's and Iranians at large happiness and celebration of winning an Oscar, but looking back to last night's opportunity, perhaps another angle that could have been mentioned...about the censorship, about the harsh working conditions for Iranian filmmakers and writers in general.

Mullins: You're talking in part about the fact that two filmmakers in Iran are now in an Iranian prison, one who hadn't even made a film yet. What are conditions like though, overall, for filmmakers and other artists?

Ildari: Folks can make movies such as you see and I don't particularly think that 'A Separation' is particularly embraced by the Iranian government. To be honest with you, I think 'A Separation' does say a lot than its filmmaker said last night at the ceremonies. It's quite an intricate, quite a smart, quite a brilliant movie and I think part of the Iranian censorship apparatus just totally missed it, fortunately [laughs].

Mullins: We should say that this is about a husband and wife who are having significant domestic problems. The husband is trying to take care of his father with Alzheimer's disease. There is a family that wants to escape, basically get out of Iran. It sounds as if it is a political film and a domestic drama, both. It got through the system though, how?

Ildari: Well, if you can't really read images and if you can't really match characters' representation on the screen to their socio-political reflections in society, then it will get through, it will slip through. It's not the first time that a government censor, be it in Iran or anywhere else, has missed big time and this is just the fabulously fortunate occasion of that.

Mullins: Hassan Ildari, Professor of Screen-Writing at Emerson College in Boston speaking to us about the film 'A Separation' which won the Oscar for best foreign language film last night at the Oscars; the first Oscar for an Iranian movie. Thank you.

Ildari: Thank you.