Iranian film ‘A Separation’ is the first Middle Eastern film to win an Oscar

So an Iranian film won an Oscar! For those of you who do not already know ‘A Separation’ won the Best Foreign Language Film Award at the 84th Academy Awards on Sunday (February 26th), just beating the Israeli movie ‘Footnote’ to the top. Now there is some irony for you (though what may be even more ironic is that, according to the Guardian, Israelis are flocking to cinemas to watch Iran’s latest contribution).

A Separation movie poster

‘A Separation’ is a drama which follows married couple, Nader and Simin, who need to decide whether to leave Iran and improve their child’s situation or stay behind and look after Nader’s father who suffers with Alzheimer’s. Nader wants to stay while Simin wants to get a divorce and leave with her daughter.

Funnily enough, in an interview with The Times last year, Farhadi said:

“I’m not one of the people whose work the government particularly likes”

However, in an open letter to director Asghar Farhadi, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami wrote (published in Aftab News):

“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”

It is hard to believe that this was the first Middle Eastern movie to actually win one of the most prestigious awards in the movie industry – especially as there are so many worthy candidates.

Yet ever since 1956 when the Academy Award of Merit for Best Foreign Language Film Award was created, 30 films from the Middle East and North Africa have been nominated and only two have ever won.

The other film to win was an Algerian movie called ‘Z’ in 1969. ‘Z’ is in French and is a fictional political thriller based around events surrounding Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis’ assassination in 1963. It is based on a book by Greek writer and diplomat Vassilis Vassilikos.

Within the nominations category, Algeria has received five and Iran has received another  one (‘Children of Heaven’). Israel has been nominated a total of ten times but has never won, while the Palestinian Territories has received one nomination.

Interestingly, while the Palestinian film ‘Paradise Now’ was nominated, another one called Divine Intervention caused some controversy in 2002 as the Academy said it could not be considered because Palestine is not formally recognised by the United Nations.

Luckily this dispute was sorted out by 2005 for ‘Paradise Now’ and although it was not successful in winning an Oscar, it did receive a Golden Globe. The film, directed by Hany Abu-Assad, is about two Palestinian men who are preparing for a suicide attack in neighbouring Israel.