A Separation (2011)

I’ve realised that the trouble with annual Academy Awards is that you have to make an award every year. Even in years where there isn’t a worthy candidate, you can’t just cancel it and say, ‘oh sorry folks, there’s nothing really good enough this year, so we’re just going to put the little man back in the cupboard for now, see you next year’. Instead you have to give it to Driving Miss Daisy, or Braveheart (both good films, but not great films), or this year… The Artist.

It’s curious that The Artist is nominated in the Best Picture category. Strictly speaking it’s a French film and should be in the Foreign Language category, but it seems the Academy has deemed silence to be English rather than foreign.

It’s also curious that the Best Picture category is exclusively limited to films in the English language. Apart from Best Picture, there are  three other categories of feature film: Animated, Documentary and Foreign Language. IMHO it would make more sense to create a fourth category – English Language Feature and then select the overall Best Picture from the winners of these four categories. This would be fairer, more representative of the entire gamut of film-making and would give pictures like A Separation a chance (see, I got there in the end).

A Separation

Nader and Simin, A SeparationI love foreign films. The only way to get a better insight into the history, culture and daily lives of people living in another country is to go there and live with a family. No amount of cheap backpacking in dirty hostels will show you what it is like to be an average citizen in Iran, or India, or Ireland for that matter. That’s what a film, made by the people of that country, about the people of that country can do.

So A Separation was already off to a good start. It’s Iranian, and one of five nominees in the Foreign Language category. On one level it’s the story of the separation of a married couple, on another level a whodunnit and on a third level a perceptive study on how people melt and meld what they call the truth according to the needs of their situation.

However, regardless of the fact that this is a foreign film, this is a great film. I can foresee the day when (like Girl With a Dragon Tatoo) it is remade in English for people who can’t read subtitles. I’m struggling for words to explain what makes it great, without giving too much away. I would compare it to Ordinary People (the well-deserved Best Picture winner in 1980) for its depth, subtlety and sensitivity in telling a story that could happen to any of us.

I have it. What makes it great is that I that I couldn’t tear myself away even for minute to tend to my over-full bladder because, as they say in the movies, I didn’t want to miss a thing. Go see it. And take all your friends.


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