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Issues of the Day “A Separation”: Iranians are People, Too

Against the background of the war talk transpiring between Jerusalem and Tehran, “A Separation,” the award-winning Iranian film, succeeds in a most important way: It confirms that Iranians are people, too. Far from being gratuitous, this message is a vital one. As an Israeli, I can only hope that ordinary Iranians whose minds are free of the toxic propaganda of the Ahmadinejad regime, have a reciprocal awareness:  Israelis are people, too.


As Nader, the film’s protagonist attempts to balance the demands of familial responsibility both to an utterly dependent father in the grips of Alzheimer’s disease and to a precocious and devoted adolescent daughter, I was struck by his values, many of which I and most other Israelis share. Against the background of marital strife, which is aggravated by his father’s lingering condition and the demands it places on their household, and his commitment to provide stability and sense of normalcy for his daughter despite her parent’s separation, Nader's responses to mounting pressures are eminently human. He faces the consequences of his decisions and actions, which require him to negotiate social and religious mores and a justice system that is labyrinthine and severe.


The filmmaker,  Asghar Farhadi, who both wrote and directed the film, deftly avoids dealing with the big issues of “our” Iran: the Iran of the Revolutionary Guards, nuclear ambition, the inflammatory demagoguery of the ayatollahs  and the saber-rattling of the military. Instead, he focuses on ordinary people, whose lives intertwine and burden each other without there being any real good guys and bad guys among them. All the characters are struggling with personal and social issues imposed on them. The motif is a familiar one, and common to all societies in one way or another.

As the international debate rages concerning preemptive strikes on a belligerent Iran  whose leaders are intent on turning their country into a nuclear power, I thank filmmaker Farhadi for reminding me that the citizens of his country have lives similar to our own. I hope that despite the demonization of Jews and Israelis fed to them by their leaders, ordinary Iranians will come to realize that Israel  is populated by people whose lives mirror their own.

Perhaps, then, some way will be found to  curtail the appetite of the political puppeteers from raining metal and fire on the mortals inhabiting their respective countries and who are the carriers of two ancient civilizations, Jewish and Persian.    

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved