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'A Separation' probes Iranians' conflicted love for their country, says director

Using a failing marriage as a metaphor, the acclaimed film 'A Separation' juxtaposes Iranians' great love for their country with growing despair that they may be forced to leave it in search of a better life.

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The escalation of global sanctions against Iran has deepened not only the country’s isolation from the rest of the world but also fissures within.

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The divisions – exposed by the 2009 protests of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection – are not only political. They have also seeped into the country’s private sphere, fracturing families, alienating friends and colleagues, and creating new tensions in everyday interactions – particularly between the lower-income, often more pious citizens and the more wealthy urban classes.

While ordinary Iranians have continued to live their daily lives, they do so with a latent fear that Iran's social and economic pressures may one day become too much to bear.

A new film, which won a Golden Globe last weekend, depicts these ruptures beautifully – without ever mentioning politics.

In “Nader and Simin: A Separation,” director Asghar Farhadi juxtaposes love and despair, Iranians’ yearning for their homeland even as they seek to leave it, mirroring the hopelessness many Iranians feel about the future of their country.

The film, which premieres in Washington tonight and Boston next weekend, has been hailed by film critics and directors inside Iran and won great international acclaim as well. It received the Golden Bear for Best Film and Silver Bears for Best Actress and Best Actor ensembles at the 2011 Berlinale Film Festival and has been put forward as Iran’s official candidate for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards Feb. 26. It has already won awards at film festivals in the United States, Australia, Croatia, Russia, Britain, Spain, and parts of Asia.

Visas for the US

“A Separation” centers on the predicament of Nader and Simin, an upper-middle-class couple seeking a divorce. Nader’s wife, Simin, wants to leave Tehran for the United States in hopes of achieving a better future for their 11-year-old daughter, Termeh, while her husband wants to stay in Iran to care for his father, whose mental health is deteriorating.

The symbolism is palpable. Nader, Simin, and Termeh’s US visas require them to leave within 40 days, a period which in Iranian tradition marks the mourning period after a loved one’s death.

Simin is mourning the loss of her homeland and wants to make a fresh start in America. But when the couple decides to separate and she packs her bags to leave, Nader’s father – Agha Joon – calls her name and takes her hand. Simin has shown him love, and he doesn’t want her to leave.


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