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Asghar Farhadi On Oscar Odds For 'The Past,' Iranian Filmmaking, Directing An Opera And Making An English-Language Movie

Photo of Laya Maheshwari By Laya Maheshwari | Indiewire December 18, 2013 at 9:31AM

It is a good time to be Asghar Farhadi. The Iranian director's last film, "A Separation," received acclaim all over the world, a journey that culminated with its Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012. Farhadi became the first Iranian to be accorded with this honor. Later that year, he was listed as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine.
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Asghar Farhadi at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
Asghar Farhadi at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

There have been indications that the new Iranian government is more tolerant and that the scene in the country is more receptive now. How do you see things changing in the near future?

I have a good hope about what is happening in Iran right now. In the very short time since the new government came, they have done a lot of things. One of them was reopening The House of Cinema [Iran's main film industry guild].  Now, all these happenings are taking place slowly. I just hope that these changes occur in all parts of our country and not just in the culture or cinema. The new regime is working on the mistakes of the other government and correcting them.

Given the change in system, do you see yourself making another film in Iran soon?

I do not usually "decide" where I'm going to make my film. The stories I write are going to decide for me where I make them. I prefer to make movies in Iran, but maybe suddenly one story will come to my mind that should be set in other countries.

You are working on an English-language script. What is its status today?

At this stage, I am just doing research. I have not written anything. I am just researching the kind of story that I want the script to have. This will take at least five or six months more. Only once this research is finished will I decide whether to work on this story or some other one. One thing is for sure: it will be set in a foreign country, one where they talk in English.

One of your most interesting projects is an opera in Rome. When can we see that?

How do you know this? It’s secret! [laughs] You’re very smart. For the last two years, they have been suggesting me to work on an opera in Italy. Last year, I really could not do anything because I didn't have the time. But maybe I will do something next year. For me, this is interesting because my background is in theater. Moreover, I am sure that this period can help me get a little distance from cinema, get a new breath and come back fresh.

Do you feel the kind of stories you want to tell are dependent on a particular medium? Or can you switch between them?

No, I can't. I am only a filmmaker. I am not the kind of artist who, when he can't make movies anymore, starts painting or works on some music. Maybe, one day, I shall work for the theater but not all the time. This is because, for me, theater is a checkup: You go to the doctor and check yourself. Similarly, theater looks like it is checking on me.

Given your recent trip to Los Angeles and frequent interactions with parties there, what do you think of the American industry right now? Do you see yourself working there?

There are, as you may know, two types of film industries in the U.S. right now: One is Hollywood (dominated by studios and companies) and the other is indie cinema. I think that if, one day, I am supposed to work there I shall work for independent cinema.

From what you’ve seen this year, what have you liked the most? Has something lingered on your mind?

Sadly, I have not watched enough good movies this year. For example, I watched "Nebraska" from Alexander Payne. That was good. In India, I saw one that was good.  However, I really can’t say which one was my favorite. That makes me sad. I feel that good movies are becoming less and less.

This article is related to: Asghar Farhadi, Interviews, The Past , Cannes Film Festival, Iranian Film, Iran, A Separation