He has been detained at airports and told never to return to Iran. But the director refuses to be silenced about outrages in his own country – and in the west. Could this cost him another Oscar at this year’s awards?
Withdrawing your film from the Oscars would be career suicide for most directors, but in November Asghar Farhadi appeared to do precisely that. Shortly after Iran’s state-controlled film board put his movie, A Hero, up for the best international feature Oscar, Farhadi released a statement on Instagram saying he was “fed up” with suggestions in Iranian media that he was sympathetic to the country’s hardline government. “If your introduction of my film for the Oscars has led you to the conclusion that I am in your debt,” he wrote, “I am explicitly declaring now that I have no problem with you reversing this decision.”
Farhadi, it could be argued, can afford to make such a gesture. He has already won two international feature Oscars – for A Separation in 2012 and The Salesman in 2017 – and many more awards besides (A Hero won the Grand Prix at Cannes last year). Such achievements inevitably convey national hero status. At the same time, he seems to have trodden a careful line when it comes to his country’s oppressive regime. Other Iranian film-makers, such as Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, have paid a heavy price for criticising aspects of Iranian society, from prison sentences and house arrests to travel bans. Farhadi seems to have been spared similar treatment. Hence the accusations that he was “pro- government”.