After a year of collecting accolades from various international film festivals and award giving bodies, A Separation yesterday took one step closer to winning the most important one of all: Iran's first Oscar.
It was nominated for two Academy Awards, one for best foreign language film and another for best original screenplay. Also nominated for the foreign film nod are Belgium's Bullhead, Israel's Footnote, Poland's In Darkness and Canada's Monsieur Lazhar, which opened the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) in October.
A Separation, written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, focuses on the dissolution of a marriage and the troubles that follow after the husband hires a young caretaker to assist his sick father, in his wife's absence. It has been acclaimed for its astute examination of how gender, class and religion divide contemporary Iranian society.
A Separation previously won the top film prize at the Berlin Film Festival, as well as the best foreign language film trophies at the Golden Globe Awards, the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review. It also won the special jury award at the ADFF. “Automatically, this success and good reception make the authorities more sensitive on me,” Farhadi told The National at the ADFF.
Indeed, on January 17 the Tehran government issued a statement arguing A Separation showed a skewed version of the Islamic Republic. “Sometimes we see those who run these festivals grant precious awards to films whose main theme is centred on the poverty and hardships of a country’s people,” Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.
The nominations for the 84th edition of the Oscars were presented yesterday by former nominee and Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence.
Martin Scorsese's 3D film Hugo, about the invention of cinema, stole the show with 11 nominations, leaving the favourite contender, the French silent film The Artist, trailing with 10.Other front-runners included Moneyball with six nominations and The Descendants with five.
Aside from these four films, the other nominees for the best picture prize are The Help, Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life, War Horse and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
George Clooney received his sixth Oscar nomination, this time for best actor, for his lead role in The Descendants. Competing against him are Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Brad Pitt (Moneyball), Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and the surprise inclusion: the Mexican actor Demian Bichir (A Better Life).
The best actress category features one of the strongest fields in years, with double Oscar winner Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) leading the pack. She is nominated alongside Viola Davis (The Help), Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn), Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs) and Rooney Mara (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).
Nominated for best supporting actor are Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn), Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Nick Holte (Warrior), Christopher Plummer (Beginners) and Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close). In what is the biggest surprise of the field, Melissa McCarthy was nominated for her supporting performance in the comedy Bridesmaids, which also bagged a best original screenplay nod for its lead star Kristen Wiig.
Recognised alongside McCarthy are Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Jessica Chastain (The Help), Octavia Spencer (The Help) and Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs).Perennial Academy favourite Martin Scorsese (Hugo) led the charge in the best director category, where he is joined by Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris) and Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life).
This year's surprise shut outs include Steven Spielberg for his directing for War Horse and Tilda Swinton for her performance in We Need to Talk About Kevin. Leonardo DiCaprio (J Edgar) and Michael Fassbender (Shame), tapped as best actor candidates, were also left out. The Academy Awards will take place on February 26 at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre and will be hosted by Billy Crystal.