“The Salesman” screens Sunday, February 5, at the National Gallery of Art as part of Reseeing Iran: The 21st Annual Iranian Film Festival.
Every once in a while, a film that we present unexpectedly hits the headlines. Such is the case with the centerpiece of this year’s Iranian Film Festival, Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman. It already opened the festival to a crowd of more than four hundred people, who filled the AFI Silver Theatre’s largest auditorium to capacity on a rainy Sunday afternoon last month. It returns this Sunday for an encore screening at our other festival partner, the National Gallery of Art.
Two days after the AFI screening, nominations were announced for the 89th Academy Awards—including The Salesman for best foreign language film. This in itself is no surprise. Farhadi’s film A Separation, was, in 2012, the first Iranian film to win the same award, launching Farhadi to international fame and inspiring huge celebrations in the streets of his native country. The story of a marriage whose fissures are exposed when an intruder breaks into the couple’s home, The Salesman is every bit as compelling as its predecessor.
Still from “The Salesman”
In the days since, however, the happy news of The Salesman’s Oscar nomination has been overshadowed by the news surrounding the executive order on travel. The film’s star Taraneh Alidoosti announced that she would boycott the Oscar ceremony, declaring on Twitter, “I won’t attend the #AcademyAwards 2017 in protest.” Shortly thereafter, Farhadi, who had planned to use his trip to Los Angeles as an opportunity to speak out about the government-issued order, released this statement. It announced that he too would boycott the ceremony, even if an exception were made allowing him to travel.
Whether you come for the well-crafted drama of Farhadi’s film, the performances of Alidoosti and her equally talented costar Shahab Hosseini, or simply to support Iranian cinema in the nation’s capital, I hope to see you on Sunday.
Our Iranian Film Festival has been a great success so far, with many—if not all—of the five hundred seats in the National Gallery of Art’s auditorium filled screening after screening. The festival ends its run at NGA on February 13 with a pair of films by and about artists. Experimental filmmaker Bahar Noorizadeh’s Wolkaan explores memory and exile through two family stories, one set in North America and the other in Iran. And Bahram Kiarostami’s documentary Monir looks at the life of the pioneering artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, who is full of new creative energy as she enters her ninth decade.
After that, the festival moves to the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland. Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, whose screening at NGA was snowed out in January, plays there on February 20. Three additional films will be screened at AFI, each of them an artistically ambitious take on contemporary Iran. Set entirely in the apartment of a couple preparing to go into exile, Nima Javidi’s debut feature Melbourne features brilliant performances and a devastating plot twist. Payman Haghani’s playful 316 traces a woman’s life (and several decades of Iranian history) entirely through shoes.
The festival concludes with a look at a side of Tehran rarely shown on film. Atomic Heart, which takes its title from a Pink Floyd album, follows two drunk party girls on an increasingly apocalyptic nocturne, featuring a mysterious stranger who may be the devil himself.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the twentieth edition of our Iranian Film Festival. Join us in March as we celebrate the DC Environmental Film Festival.
The President screens Sunday, January 17, 4 pm, at the National Gallery of Art.
The new year is upon us, and with the Freer now closed for renovation, our film program has made its temporary move to other theaters around the DC area. I was pleased to see big crowds in the National Gallery of Art’s spacious East Building Auditorium during the opening weekend of our Twentieth Annual Iranian Film Festival on January 2 and 3.
If you weren’t able to join us, there are still plenty of provocative and inspiring Iranian films to come this month, starting with Dariush Mehrjui’s 1969 masterpiece The Cow. This landmark of Iranian cinema has long been unavailable on DVD, but thanks to the efforts of the National Film Archive of Iran, we are able to bring you a digitally restored version this Saturday at 1 pm.
Also not to be missed are Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s biting political allegory The President on January 17 and Jafar Panahi’s award-winning Taxi on January 23. This is the third film Panahi has made in defiance of a ban on directing films imposed by the Iranian government for alleged treasonous activities. Like its predecessors This is Not a Film and Closed Curtain, Jafar Panahi’s Taxi is a moving testament to his devotion to artistic freedom, no matter the cost.