Few films have been more universally received than A Separation, an Iranian drama from director Asghar Farhadi. The film won multiple prizes at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, and has gone to play to standing ovations at Telluride, Toronto, and here in New York on the festival scene. It will also contend for the Oscars as the official selection by the nation of Iran, surprisingly for a film that deals so bleakly with issues of class, religion, and gender that plague Iranian society. Perhaps though, no one can deny the power of Mr. Farhadi, who spoke about the reasons for making his film back when the film played the New York Film Festival.
On deciding to make the film and the entry point to the script.
When I started breaking the story I can’t point my finger to what it was or how it was that got constructed in my head…I was already working on another film [outside Iran] that I had planned for two years but one day, I really felt I wanted to go back to Iran and do a film there, and that feeling became stronger, and two days later I was back in Iran. The first image that came to my mind was a man who had Alzheimer’s disease and that image was stuck in my head that entire afternoon.
Working with his own daughter, who plays the daughter in the family
Before starting to write this script for the film, I was in a period of taking care of my daughter—taking her to school and bringing her back every day. We were in very close company with each other and would talk and discuss things, and I thought this could be represented in my films. When I was writing my story, my daughter kept coming back to my mind as the person who could be perfect for this role. I thought, perhaps, this could be ideal, and easy for us to do so, because we had that time period together. But as it turns out, it was a lot more difficult than I planned on. When I asked the other actors to do certain things, they usually accepted very fast. It was either they had seen my previous work, or out of respect since I was the director. It was a lot more difficult with my daughter. Whatever I asked her to do, she always had a why to ask. And it would drive me crazy! But the good thing that happened was that [Peyman Moaadi], who plays the father, was getting closer and closer to my daughter. They were bonding really well. And he had another job, so my daughter would spend time in his office, and they started getting closer together.