Asghar Farhadi made his first film at the age of 13, shot with an 8mm camera, about two boys who agreed to share an abandoned radio on different days, but then they abandoned it. go because both can’t listen to their favorite nightly show.
The film – which won him a new bike as an award – is the story of kids struggling with trivial challenges. But like all the stories Farhadi wrote and directed, acclaimed by many as one of Iran’s finest filmmakers, the film deploys the mundane to convey the deep. sharp.
“It is very valuable to me to stay focused,” said Farhadi, 49, a two-time Oscar winner, in an interview from Los Angeles, where he is visiting from his hometown of Tehran. into ordinary people. “I don’t think my work will be about special or famous people because they’re not part of my emotional bank.”
For the characters in that bank of emotions, largely drawn from his own childhood, circumstances can turn a prized object into a useless annoyance. People struggle with difficult decisions and complicated compromises, anticipating one outcome but facing an entirely different outcome. Individuals are nuanced, not easily classified as saviors or villains.
His most recent film, “A hero,” won the top prize at Cannes, integrating all these sub-themes. Its ordinary characters are engulfed in chaos, suspense and suspense.
After all, Mr. Farhadi was the son of a revolution that overthrew the monarchy, established an Islamic theocracy, and turned America into a political enemy. When he was 10, Iran was at war with Iraq and children were training in a bunker in elementary school.
“Our childhood was the time when we experienced a bomb going off in our neighborhood,” he said. “This is something that will not fade from our memory, and it will affect us forever.”
If Mr Farhadi were to be named for his personal hero, it would be his grandfather, with whom he spent most of his childhood. He was not highly educated but was a gifted storyteller who brought his whole family together to tell moving stories.
Mr. Farhadi, the subject of his grandfather’s custody, wanted to be like him. So he told his career story.
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The protagonist in “A Hero” is a man jailed for financial debt and struggling with an ethical dilemma in order to secure his release. The news and social media buzz elevated him to an overnight hero for a good deed. But it is those same forces that quickly knock him down when twists and half-truths emerge, casting doubt on his motives.
Mr. Farhadi said the film examines why a society needs to make someone a hero. He wants to point out the flaws in idolizing one person and expect others to follow. Time and insight will eventually expose the less-than-perfect sides of a hero and the image will fall apart, he said.
If his films are meant to be political and social commentary, “A Hero” offers a bold exploration of the Iranian tendency to revere religious and political figures like God. Mr Farhadi said the outcome was inevitable “when you’re trying to tell a story as close to real life as possible.”
Iranians still name their children after ancient literary heroes. Shia Islam, Iran’s dominant religion, relies on imitation of religious clerics. The political structure of the country, from the Shah to the present Supreme Leader, is centered around a cult of personality.
“In a society saturated with slogans, this can happen,” Mr. Farhadi said. “We want to continuously create idols and be like them. Its core is false. ” He added, “When we have heroes in our society, we are essentially getting rid of our responsibilities.”
Mr. Farhadi, who lives in Tehran with his wife and young daughter, says he is most creative when working in his hometown. But he was not indifferent to the suffering he witnessed. He said that the anger of the Iranians is palpable and that no one is trying to address it.
But at the same time, the younger generation of Iranians gives him hope, he said, because they question and demand accountability.
As a public figure with an international background, Mr. Farhadi was pressured to take sides. He noted that navigating Iran’s political landscape requires a balancing act. If he remains silent, he is criticized as a tool of the government. If he spoke too loudly, he could be deported as other film directors have done.
Government supporters accuse him of making films that show the negative side of Iran. Others criticized what they saw as his overly bright portraits.
“For everything, not just for artists, for every aspect of Iranian life there is this polarization. It’s not very transparent, you say something, and they interpret it differently,” said Mr Farhadi. “The question arises, where does one stand?”
Farhadi prefers to make statements through films, he said, because the art is lasting and impactful rather than making commentary. However, every now and then, he just can’t keep his tongue.
In November, Mr Farhadi provoked the government in a lengthy Instagram post declaring: “Let me be clear, I despise you”.
He denounced factions trying to identify him as an artist affiliated with the government and said if that was perceived, Iran should withdraw “A Hero” as the official entry for the Oscars. Iran is not. (It made the first Oscar shortlist but was not nominated.)
Hamid Naficy, professor emeritus at Northwestern University and scholar of Iranian film and culture, said that as Farhadi is one of Iran’s most famous filmmakers, he should not be expected to be an ambassador. politics.
Mr. Naficy said Mr Farhadi’s contribution was “to create a complex, thrilling, painful and joyful picture of a society that has existed for thousands of years”.
If Iranian filmmakers saw their work as ambassadors, he said, “it would be a kind of propaganda film for both sides – pro-regime or anti-regime.”
Mr. Farhadi was born in 1972 in Homayoun Shahr, a small town on the outskirts of Isfahan, to a middle-class family who owned a grocery store. He spent the summer working at a local print shop framing and cropping photos from a client’s camera roll. As a teenager, he found a book about filmmaking and wrote his first screenplay, about radio. He made the short film with the support of a cultural center funded by the local government.
He moved to Tehran to attend university, majoring in theater and earning a master’s degree in stage design. Mr. Farhadi wrote scripts for state television and radio before writing and directing his own films.
In 2009, his film “About Elly” won the best director award at the Berlin Film Festival and the best film award at the Tribeca Film Festival. In the world of global cinema, he has attracted attention.
He went on to win two Academy Awards in the category of Best International Drama for “Separation” in 2012 and “Sales agent“In 2018. Mr. Farhadi now belongs to an elite club made up of only a few prominent directors – Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman – who have won multiple Oscars in the foreign film category.
Despite all the accolades, Mr Farhadi still reminisces about the joy of seeing his first award, a beautiful bike, placed on stage. He attended the awards ceremony alone in Isfahan and was worried about how to ride his bike home. Night fell and the rain poured down. Mr. Farhadi said he cycled for two hours.
When his father opened the door and saw him drenched and exhausted proudly showing off his prize, he was in no mood to scold. He asked gently, “Is it worth it?”
That question bothered Mr Farhadi as he pondered his career.
“I don’t want to say I’m not satisfied with my path, but those who achieve success in life will have to make more sacrifices,” said Mr Farhadi. “And sometimes you ask yourself, ‘Is it worth it?'”
If he could ask his 13-year-old self now, with the insight of a famous executive, Mr. Farhadi said, he would answer that “you don’t have to work so hard, you do. No need to start so early. . ”
Cinema, he said, “isn’t all there is to life. I realized this a bit late.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/world/middleeast/iran-film-asghar-farhadi.html Rule of an Iranian Director: ‘Always Focus on Ordinary People.’