Farhadi has navigated it with dignity so far, functioning as a sort of loyal opposition. He makes movies that appeal to the regime’s upscale challengers without insulting the government’s down-market supporters. In A Separation, Islam puts the fear of Allah into some of the characters. If not for the threat of being forced to swear on a Koran, there’d be no end to the conniving.
The Iranian state, as personified in A Separation by its overworked judges, is portrayed as under-budgeted but at least scrupulous about lower-class rights when in conflict with the bourgeoisie.
Is Iran’s government piling up a world-threatening nuclear arsenal? Perhaps, but judging from A Separation, it’s having problems merely keeping its courthouses painted. Pretrial hearings are conducted without lawyers in tiny offices, just a tired judge on one side of a desk and the clamorous disputants on the other. I can’t say that this no-jury method, based on the French inquisitorial system, looks much worse than our Anglo-Saxon adversarial system.
I was once a juror in the trial of an Iranian used-car dealer over the embezzlement of two million dollars in California sales-tax revenue. The defendant’s brother-in-law, the brains behind the operation, had vamoosed back to Iran. So California was trying the front man, who had legally pretended to be running the lot in order to slide his banned in-law back into the used-car racket.
After two weeks of testimony, I discovered that my fellow jurors had completely failed to grasp what the case was even about. I don’t imagine some cleric-approved Iranian judge could have done much worse.
Farhadi’s graceful Oscar acceptance speech last week, which suggested it wouldn’t be good to blow up his country, was the best 60 seconds of publicity Iran has received in some time.
Farhadi recommends not only that America not attack Iranians, but also that Iranians should stay home and fix their homeland. “If your child has a very high fever…would you abandon your child, or would you stay there?”
Mr. Farhadi sounds like a man after my own heart.
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