Iran vs. Israel: The Movies

Article Summary
As Iran's “A Separation” beat Israel's “Footnote” to clinch the foreign language film Oscar, the event was tarnished by politics, write Tzipi Shmilovitz and Smadar Perry. Though the Iranian government had heaped countless difficulties on the winning director, it proclaimed the Oscar “a national victory.”

On Feb. 27 at 4 a.m., in front of the entire world, Israel and Iran reached the finish line. The Point Of No Return. With a grim face, Sandra Bullock rose to the stage with an envelope in her hand; and then--the bombshell exploded.

The winner, she said, was Iran, putting an end to months of speculation. 1:0 in their favor.

A Separation, the prize-winning film of our eastern neighbor, earned the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The members of the Israeli delegation competed with Footnote, and were prepared for the possibility that their rival would take home the coveted statuette, but they knew how to lose honorably. When the winner was announced, the three Israelis— Joseph Cider, Shlomo Bar Aba and Lior Ashkenazi— stood up and clapped.

When the stardust had a chance to settle, the Israelis admitted that at the moment of the announcement, their hearts sank. “There’s always that expectation, that hope, that in spite of it all, it will happen,” Ashkenazi admitted. And Bar Aba explained that the battle was inconceivable. “Over the last few days, we realized that it would be impossible not to give the prize to the Iranians, certainly when we talk about an important, artistic film coming from such a closed country, and in the present climate. Nevertheless, in the joint breakfast, their leading actress told us that both films have similar messages: that it’s important to achieve reconciliation first within the family, and only then to solve the bigger tensions.”

The winning director, Asghar Farhadi, had avoided all events open to the media before the Oscar ceremony. But finally, he had no choice and rose to the stage to accept his prize with a speech that brought tears to many people’s eyes.   

"At a time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their county, 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, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment," he said. “My film holds no interest for the government in Teheran.”

The State of Iran that heaped countless difficulties on the director throughout all the stages of producing the movie, and whose cultural ministry even made it clear that they “very much don’t like the plot,” did an about-face this week. “This is a national victory of the highest level,” noted the news broadcast. The head of Iran's Cinema Council even bragged that “this is the beginning of the collapse of the Zionist influence in the United States.” A high-placed film critic announced the reason for Israel’s defeat, “Because of their intensive pursuit of preparing for attacks on Iran, the Zionist regime lost out on a major scale.”

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