ASGHAR FARHADI: A SEPARATION

A Separation has won the Golden Bear in Berlin as well as various other awards, and it’s the frontrunner to win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. What do you think is connecting so much with people about this particular film?

“I can’t respond with any certainty but I have some guesses,” says Asghar Farhadi via a translator. “It seems that the story the film contains is one that is tangible and doesn’t seem distant to audiences in different parts of the world. And the aspects that are more local, that specifically have to do with my culture and country, are still understandable to [foreign] audiences. Maybe it’s also that the kind of viewer that the film requires and creates is not merely a passive viewer but one that needs to be involved in the film, which makes a greater connection exist.”

I’ve read that the film was partly inspired by your personal experiences? Can you elaborate on that?

“Yes, part of the film comes from my personal experience. For example, the old man with Alzheimer’s, this was something that I experienced, my own grandfather had Alzheimer’s and some of the events that befall the old man are things that happened to my own grandfather. Also, my relationship with my daughter [Sarina Farhadi], who actually plays the part of Termeh in the film – it’s not as though the relationship between Nader and her is the same as mine with my daughter, but it still was something that prompted me to include that relationship and develop it.”

One thing I loved about the film is that there are no good guys or bad guys, we can understand the point of view and feelings of each of them. Was that important for you?

“One of the most important things for me to maintain in all the films I’ve worked on so far is this very thing. In none of my films to date have I had a negative character, not in my minor nor in my principal characters. I can’t provide a portrayal of a character and say, ‘This person is always good’ or on the other hand, ‘This person is always bad and in every circumstance their conduct reflects that.’ I believe that an account of the character of a person is possible only within a description of the circumstances in which they are to be found.”

While the adults fight, their children have to witness the whole mess, powerless. Did you want to show how each generation suffers from the actions of its elders?

“In my view, children are the most important judges in this film. They are constantly looking around to try and reach a conclusion, a judgement as to who it is who is right, and their conclusion changes constantly, just like the audience’s. They are practicing for entering the society of grown-ups and they understand how complex the world of adults is.”

What can you tell us about the actors you cast?

“As far as the cast goes, some of these actors had worked with me in the past, some of them were ones with whom it was our first working experience. Most of them are among the best and most able actors in Iran. One or two of them, this would be their first or second film. I was very fortunate that all my actors were very patient and willing to go to the long and difficult rehearsals we had. Because of my experience, what I did was to work [with them] on a series of etudes (study scenes), which were not scenes present in the film itself or in the story, and to gradually move the actors out of the real day-to-day world into the world of the film.”

You did not get government support to make the film. Even with private financing, do you have to deal with a form of censorship?

“It doesn’t matter where you are getting your financing from. The laws are applied to all the films [in Iran]. But if you do receive your financing from government sources, then they would apply those laws even more strictly.”

I’ve heard that you plan to shoot your next film abroad, with foreign producers?

“It’s true, I’m writing and developing a screenplay, and the reason I’m working outside the country is that the story that I’m doing actually takes place outside the country. My expectation is that this film will be a continuation of my previous work, I don’t expect it to be something really different.”