The media attention on Israel’s potential response to Iran’s nuclear activity has piqued my interest to learn a bit more about Iranian culture. Last week our family watched a most incredible film that I felt provided so much insight, so I asked my very good friend, Cultural Detective certified facilitator Pari Namazie, what she thought about what I had learned and seen.
I trust you’ll all enjoy her insights as much as I have. It would seem that this film could be an excellent learning tool for those working with Iranians.
Pari joon, thank you for sharing your insights with us!
They were proud moments for us Iranians when Asghar Farhadi received the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, as well as the Golden Globe and the Golden Bear of Berlinale, for his film A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin).
The film, which talks about a divorce between Nader and Simin, has two main underlying themes: responsibility and truth. Though one initially thinks the film is about a divorce case, Farhadi cleverly weaves many layers of Iranian society into his film, including power, religion, truth, gender, family, and social class. The points which stuck out most when I watched the film were:
The role of women: Iran is governed by Islamic law. The society is patriarchal and the laws between men and women unequal. Although the foreign media might portray Iranian women as weak and dominated by men, the reality of the matter was captured well in Farhadi’s film, which showed Simin wanting to leave Iran with her daughter, as she believed it was not an environment for a child to grow up in. When her husband refused to immigrate with her (due to his father’s condition), she then insisted on divorce and moved into her parents’ home. It also showed a more religious woman taking fate into her own hands looking for a job, despite the fact that in her family the breadwinner was undoubtedly her husband. Any one who has visited Iran will know the strength of character and conviction of its women.
Truth: The film beautifully portrayed the search for truth in the Iranian culture: from the court, to Termeh (the daughter) asking her father if he knew Razieh (the helper) was pregnant when he pushed her out of the house, to Razieh swearing on the Koran that Nader’s pushing her caused her miscarriage — if she swore on the Koran and it were untrue, then she would condemn her daughter’s future and fate. These behaviors show one of the strongest elements in Iranian culture: the search for truth.
Religion: Beautiful to see how Farhadi craftfully showed the secular and religious segments of society, how they came together respectful of one another, and yet also their existing tensions. Nader and Simin are more secular and Razieh and her family, religious. On one occasion Razieh called her religious authority to ask if it was permitted by Islam to work with an elderly old man, who was not related to her and where she would have to wash and change him.
Responsibility and Family: The relationship and responsibility towards family from the younger to the older generation. In the opening scene at the family court, Nader tells the judge that he cannot immigrate with Simin as he has an elderly father suffering with Alzheimer’s and can not leave him. Other scenes show Nader’s commitment to his father and his relationship with his daughter Termeh. Although he is under many pressures he still maintains his attentive concentration towards Termeh’s studies and taking care of his father, the two main priorities in his life.
Farhadi competently shows the different viewpoints of all the actors, without taking sides, and lets the audience reflect on the circumstances and situations. This film is a must-see if you have not yet!