The contrast couldn’t have been any clearer at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony Sunday when it came to presenting the prize for Best Foreign Language Film.
Host Ricky Gervais’s irreverence for authority, and Madonna’s unrestrained immodesty were – for better or for worse – testaments to the universal right to express oneself freely.
Then came the solemnity of Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s acceptance speech after Madonna announced that his film “A Separation,” which he made in Iran and is still showing there, had won the category.
Farhadi claimed that he had been approaching the stage wondering whom he might mention – family, friends or crew – when he decided he would say a word about the Iranian people.
“I think they are a truly peace-loving people, he said. The comment smacked of all the self-restraint you’d expect from a person who is aware that the authorities back home were watching.
Indeed, the movie – which touches on Iran’s suffocating laws and traditions as it tells of the breakup of a couple in their 40s – is reputed to be a favorite of Iranians who marched in the streets over the disputed 2009 elections that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency.
And so Farhadi was equally restrained when asked later to elaborate on the comment he’d made onstage.
“In my opinion the people of the two countries have no issues with each other,” he said. “The people of Iran, as I mentioned earlier, are very peace-seeking and peace-loving. I hope that, not just Iran, but anywhere in the world, no one experiences war, and war becomes something we just discuss from the past.”
None of his direct comments made it into Iran’s official press.
Calling the movie a “prize-magnet,” Press TV focused on the many other awards the film has received, and quoted The New York Times as predicting it will win the 2012 Best Foreign Film Oscar.
The Fars News Agency ran a similar article.
The Iranian Students News Agency, often described as a “semi-official” outlet, referenced Farhadi’s remarks, but failed to cite them exactly, saying instead he was “speaking highly of (the) Iranian nation.”
Farhadi said in a recent interview that he instinctively navigates Iranian censorship restrictions.
“Because I was born under these conditions, at times unconsciously, without even being aware my mind is doing this, I gravitate towards stories that are going to work in those conditions,” he said when asked how censorship affects his artistic choices.
After he mounted the stage at the awards ceremony, he noticeably did not shake Madonna’s hand. Not only is her music banned in Iran, but Farhadi himself recently received criticism in his country for shaking the hand of Angelina Jolie – in contravention of Iranian sharia-based law that forbids direct contact between men and women who are not related to one another.