Iranians took to the Internet and mobile phones on Monday to declare their pride and joy at their country’s first win at the Oscars — and at the speech by triumphant director Asghar Farhadi putting culture above politics.
Messages flooded SMS servers and social networks moments after the movie, “A Separation,” was awarded the best foreign language Oscar at the US Academy Awards.
Only Iranians braving a ban on satellite television receivers were able to see the Oscars live, broadcast by foreign channels into their homes before dawn Tehran time.
But they quickly launched an avalanche of electronic exchanges that only increased as state-controlled television replayed the key moment throughout the day.
Farhadi’s acceptance speech emphasising his country’s desire to be seen as a complete nation, one that contributes much more than the geopolitical tensions over its nuclear programme suggest, prompted accolades from ordinary Iranians.
“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, her rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics,” Farhadi told the Oscars audience.
Jafar, 29, wrote on his Facebook page that his happiness was not just because of the unprecedented Oscar win — “it’s more because of what he (Farhadi) said.”
Hossein, 30, from Isfahan, added: “Thank you Asghar Farhadi! It had been soooo long we hadn’t taken pride in ourselves.”
Negar, 28, summed it up on her Facebook page. “We all kind of knew he would win, and that the movie would get an Oscar. But the speech was what made my day. It is time for the world to look at Iran in a different light.”
Behzad, 38, said on Facebook that Farhadi, through his speech, “proved once again that Iranians have their roots in a rich culture adorned with love and friendship.”
Iranian media reported the win in the United States as a victory of Iranian culture, with a few noting with glee that “A Separation” beat Israeli film “Footnote” to take the golden statuette.
“Iran cinema made history,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said.
Another outlet, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), claimed that an “Iranian flag has been planted atop America.”
A deputy culture minister in charge of cinema affairs, Javad Shamaqdari, was quoted by IRNA saying the US Academy Awards members “bowed before Iranian culture” by voting for “A Separation” over the Israeli movie.
“The success of Mr Farhadi in winning the Oscar is a link in the chain of the great Iranian people’s successes, and I congratulate him, his colleagues and Iranian cinema and all Iranian cinema lovers,” he said.
The head of the ministry’s unit in charge of supervising Iran’s movie industry, Ali Reza Sajadpour, told ISNA that “this success belongs to Iranian cinema.”
He stressed the ministry had given its “support” to the movie’s Oscar run — but he omitted to say that authorities had briefly blocked filming of the movie in 2010 because of Farhadi’s sympathies for other film-makers deemed “dissident.”
“A Separation” presents a social expose of the Islamic republic behind the veneer of a taut family drama, while exploring themes of love, lies and honour.
The movie begins with a reluctant divorce bid by a couple, but broadens out as they find themselves in a separate legal dispute with another couple following a desperate, tragic event at home.
As the story develops, it becomes clear that “A Separation” is about a wider narrative: that of a fracture in the country in which they live, between Iran’s middle class whose values and missteps are easily recognised by audiences everywhere, and Iran’s poorer underclass, with its feeling of powerlessness and adherence to religion.