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Iranian director portrays disintegrating marriage
BERLIN (AP) - An Iranian director is competing at the Berlin film festival with a portrayal of a disintegrating marriage that highlights a clash between traditional and modern ways of living and thinking.
Asghar Farhadi's "Nader and Simin, A Separation" screened on Tuesday. Farhadi was honored as best director in Berlin two years ago for his previous movie, "About Elly."
The new film chronicles the events that follow a wife's unsuccessful petition for a divorce, which she seeks when her husband refuses to leave Iran with her and her daughter. He worries about leaving behind his father, who suffers from Alzheimer's.
The wife then moves out and the man hires a pregnant, pious young woman who agrees to take care of his father, without telling her husband. One afternoon, a blazing argument is followed by the woman suffering a miscarriage _ setting in motion a chain of events that shakes the family and sees the characters repeatedly dragged into court.
"One of the aspects of this film is the struggle between those who are led by tradition and those who are led by a more modern aspect of life," said Farhadi, speaking through an interpreter.
That can be seen both in the wife's struggle with her husband over the family's future and in the worries of the care giver, who is seen seeking religious advice on whether she can change a male patient's clothes.
Farhadi said a high divorce rate in Iran is one side-effect of a "great wish to be more modern." But he insisted his film is as much more universal than an Iranian story.
"It's about the human being and his weaknesses and faults," said actress Leila Hatami, who plays the wife in the film.
"Nader and Simin" is one of 16 movies competing for the festival's top Golden Bear award, which will be awarded on Saturday.
Iran has been in the spotlight at this year's event due to the absence of one of the jury's official members, Iranian director Jafar Panahi, who was sentenced last year to six years in jail on charges of working against the ruling system. He is also banned from leaving Iran, shooting films or scriptwriting for 20 years.
"I think no director anywhere in the world has not felt sorrow and sadness," Farhadi said of Panahi's plight.
Farhadi's film was followed by a contrasting competition entry: American actress-filmmaker Miranda July's second movie as a director, "The Future."
The quirky relationship tale follows a month in the life of a couple who are about to adopt a sick cat and it's narrated by the cat.
"It's hard to talk about longing and love in a new way," July said of that decision.
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