“I said, what a contrast that we see this Iranian film with such admiration, and then when we leave we think about how they want to kill us,” Amirav said.
Iranian cinema has reaped praise and prizes at top festivals for decades. But while the government often highlights sporting achievements and technological leaps as a source of national pride, it is typically dismissive of international cultural and entertainment awards.
However, taking the Oscar over an Israeli rival was too powerful for state image builders to ignore.
A state TV broadcast said the award succeeded in “leaving behind” a film from Israel. Javad Shamaghdari, head of the state Cinematic Agency, portrayed the Oscar win as the “beginning of the collapse” of Israeli influence that “beats the drum of war” in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Still, Iranian artists and many fans did not try to score any propaganda points and were simply delighted by the country’s first Oscar.
Tahmineh Milani, director of the acclaimed 2005 film “Unwanted Woman,” said the Oscar was a source of “national pride” that “revived hope in the hearts of all Iranians.”
“I feel fresh air in my lungs,” said Erfan Khazaei, an art student at Azad University, who watched the Oscar ceremony on satellite TV with four friends. “Now we are more hopeful about the future.”
The Academy Awards were not broadcast live on Iranian TV, and many Iranians watched via satellite dishes, which are illegal but widely used. Clips of Farhadi’s acceptance speech were later aired on state TV.
“A Separation,” tells the story of a couple heading for divorce and dealing with domestic troubles, including a young child and an aging parent. It portrays a husband who is protective of his father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. He is in conflict with his wife, who wishes to emigrate. Their daughter is torn between them.
While its themes are not overtly political, ultra-conservatives denigrated the film as an indirect slap at the country.
Prominent hard-line sociologist Ebrahim Fayyaz called it a “black realistic film” that portrays the country as an old man, a symbol of tradition and the past who is afflicted with a mind-crippling disease.
He said the movie suggests emigrating to the West as a solution. “The West awards movies that are in the direction of their policies,” he told the Nasim news agency.
Iranian authorities have long had an uneasy relationship with the country’s filmmakers. The leadership gives latitude to explore many social topics, but draws a sharp line on works with clearly anti-establishment overtones.
Officials said it lacked the proper permits, but artists and others contend it was a political decision because the group often took liberal stands contrary to the government’s cultural policies. Last month, Farhadi proposed that Iranian authorities allow a vote among artists about its fate.