A Separation (2011)
A Separation (IRAN) Directed by Asghar Farhadi Written by Asghar Farhadi Starring Leila Hatami; Peyman Moadi; Sarah Beyat; Shabab Hosseini; Mohammad Ebrahimian; Sarina Farhadi; Ali-Asghar Shahbazi
A Separation arises out of a tradition of quality Iranian cinema - a fact made all the more poignant by the six year prison sentence (and twenty year ban on making films, conducting interviews, traveling abroad, or writing screenplays) in 2010 of Jafar Panhai. Written and directed by forty year old Asghar Farhadi, A Separation has won a slew of critics awards, including The Oscar for best foreign picture. The film opens with a couple, Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moadi), appearing before a judge seeking a legal separation. With their visas and paperwork having finally been approved, Simin wants them all to leave the country with the hopes of better opportunities for their eleven year old daughter Termeh (the director’s real life daughter Sarina). Nader opposes leaving on the grounds of their responsibility for his elderly father, who suffers from Altzheimer’s. Simin is so upset over Nader’s stance that she moves into her parent’s home, an action leading to a series of events with dire consequences for a number of people in their immediate circle. Like many Iranian films, there are pressing questions posed about truth vs. perception, honor, and the vagrancies of the justice system. There are also pertinent issues at play having to do with the role of women in the Muslim dominated middle east, though Farhadi walks a fine line in presenting material relating to religion and state, refraining from explicitly stating the obvious societal issues being hinted at - namely, the subjugation/oppression of women. After making comments to the press about Panahi and the exiled Mohsen Makhmalbaf, shooting of A Separation was temporarily shut down in 2010, pointing out just how lucky Farhadi was to have made the film at all. A Separation begs complicated moral questions and we are never allowed to feel confident that we know the whole “truth,” which no doubt creates a bit of of Rashomon-like mystery. More than anything though, the film is about a family, and several frustratingly complex interpersonal relationships, and it all feels fully realized and true to life. Leila Hatami is particularly strong as the conflicted wife and mother Simin, a woman obsessed with a singular pursuit to escape oppression.