One Iranian director’s rule: ‘Always pay attention to ordinary people.’

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One Iranian director’s rule: ‘Always pay attention to ordinary people.’

Asghar Farhadi shoots his first film at the age of 13 with an 8-millimeter camera, about two boys who agree to share an abandoned radio on alternate days, but then drop it because neither plays their favorite night. can listen to the programme.

The film – which fetched him a new cycle as a reward – tells the story of children grappling with small challenges. But like all stories Mr. Farhadi has scripted and directed to widespread acclaim as one of Iran’s pre-eminent filmmakers, it deployed the mundane to convey depth.

Farhadi, a two-time Oscar winner, at the age of 49, said in an interview from Los Angeles, “It is very valuable to me to always focus on the common people.” “I don’t think my work will ever be about people who are special or famous because they are not part of my emotional bank.”

For characters in that emotional bank, who are largely drawn from their childhoods, the circumstance can turn a prized possession into needless annoyance. People struggle with painstaking decisions and complicated compromises, hoping for one outcome but facing an entirely different outcome. Individuals are nuanced, not easily classified as saviors or villains.

His most recent film, “A Hero”, which won the top prize at Cannes, integrates all these sub-themes. Its ordinary characters are shrouded in chaos, mystery and adventure.

After all, Mr. Farhadi is the child of a revolution that toppled the monarchy, established an Islamic theocracy, and made America a political enemy. By the time he was 10, Iran was at war with Iraq and children were doing bunker exercises in elementary school.

“Our childhood was at a time when we experienced a bomb blast in our neighbourhood,” he said. “It’s something that will never disappear from our memory, and it will affect us forever.”

If Mr. Farhadi had to name his personal hero, it would be his grandfather, with whom he spent most of his childhood. He was not highly educated, but a gifted storyteller who gathered the family together to tell feel-good tales.

Mr. Farhadi, his grandfather’s captive audience, wanted to be like him. Therefore, he made storytelling his profession.

The protagonist in “A Hero” is a man jailed for financial debt and grappling with a moral dilemma that might secure his release. The news coverage and social media buzz made him an overnight hero for a good cause. But when twists and half-truths are revealed, the same forces quickly topple him, casting doubt on his motive.

Mr. Farhadi said that the film explores why society needs to make someone a hero. He wanted to show a person the faults of idolatry and expecting others to follow. Time and insight will eventually uncover the not-so-true side of a hero and the image will be shattered, he said.

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If his films are meant as social and political commentary, “A Hero” presents in a daring way the tendency among Iranians to accord god-like respect to religious and political figures. Mr Farhadi said this outcome was inevitable “when you are trying to tell a story that is as close to real life as possible.”

Iranians still name their children after ancient literary heroes. Shia Islam, the dominant religion of Iran, is based on following religious clergy. The country’s political structure, from Shah to the current Supreme Leader, has been centered on a cult of personality.

“This can happen in a society full of slogans,” Mr. Farhadi said. “We constantly want to make idols and say, be like them. Its core is wrong.” He added, “When we have heroes in society, we are basically escaping our responsibilities.”

Mr. Farhadi, who lives in Tehran with his wife and young daughter, says he is at his creative best when working in his country. But he is not indifferent to the suffering he has seen. He said the anger among Iranians was clear and no one was trying to quell it.

But at the same time, the younger generation of Iranians gives them hope, he said, as they ask questions and demand accountability.

As a public figure with an international forum, Mr. Farhadi is pressured to take sides. He is careful that navigating Iran’s political landscape requires a balancing act. If he remains silent, he is criticized as an instrument of the government. If he speaks too loudly, he can be banished like other film directors.

Government supporters accused him of making films showing the negative side of Iran. Others criticize what they consider to be an overly bright portrayal of him.

“It’s polarizing for everything, not just artists, every aspect of Iranian life. It’s not very transparent, you say something, and they interpret it differently,” Mr. Farhadi said. “The question arises, where is anyone standing?”

Mr Farhadi prefers to make statements through films, he said, because art is more enduring and impactful than passing comments. However, sometimes, he is unable to hold his tongue.

In November, Mr Farhadi hit out at the government in a lengthy Instagram post, saying: “I say it frankly, I despise you.”

He denounced factions that try to define him as a government-affiliated artist and said that if this assumption holds, Iran should withdraw “A Hero” as its official entry for the Oscars. Iran did not. (The film made the initial Oscar list but was not nominated.)

In 2017, Mr Farhadi took a stand against former President Donald Trump’s travel ban policy, which influenced Iranians by boycotting the Academy Awards ceremony, where he won his second Oscar.

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Hamid Nafisi, an emeritus professor at Northwestern University and scholar of Iranian cinema and culture, said Mr Farhadi is one of Iran’s best-known filmmakers, but he should not be expected to serve as a political ambassador.

Mr. Farhadi’s contribution, Mr. Nafisi said, “to create a complex and thrilling and painful and joyous picture of a society that has existed for thousands of years.”

If Iranian filmmakers were to see his work as ambassador, he said, “it would be a kind of propaganda film for both sides – pro-regime or anti-regime.”

Mr. Farhadi was born in 1972 in the small town of Homayun, a small town outside Isfahan, to a middle-class family that owned a grocery store. He spent summers working at a local print shop preparing and cutting photos from customers’ camera rolls. When he was a teenager, he found a book about film making and wrote his first screenplay about radio. He made the short film with the support of the Cultural Center sponsored by the local government.

He moved to Tehran to attend university, majoring in theater and earning a master’s degree in stage design. Mr. Farhadi wrote screenplays for state television and radio before writing and directing his own films.

In 2009, his film “About Alley” won Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival and Best Picture at the Tribeca Film Festival. He attracted attention in the world of global cinema.

He won two Oscars in the category of Best International Feature for “A Separation” in 2012 and “The Salesman” in 2018. Mr Farhadi now belongs to an elite club of only a handful of distinguished directors – Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman – who have won multiple Oscars in the foreign film category.

Despite all the accolades, Mr. Farhadi recalls the joy of seeing his first award, a beautiful bicycle placed on the stage. He had attended the award ceremony alone in Isfahan and was worried about how he would ride a bike home. It was night and it was raining. Mr Farhadi said he pedaled for two hours.

When his father opened the door and saw that he was wet and tired, but proudly showing his prize, he had no heart to scold him. He asked softly, “Was it worth it?”

This question has made Mr. Farhadi think about his career.

“I don’t want to say that I’m not happy with my path, but those who are successful in life make other sacrifices,” Mr. Farhadi said. “And sometimes you ask yourself, ‘Was it worth it?'”

If he could now ask his 13-year-old self, from the point of view of a famous director, Mr. Farhadi said, he would reply that “You didn’t have to work so hard, you didn’t have to start so early.”

Cinema, he said, “isn’t everything for life. I came to understand this for a while.”

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