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Farhadi nabs 2 Oscar nominations.

The film "Nader and Simin: A Separation" was nominated for two Oscars Tuesday by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

As expected, the film is one of the five nominees for the award for Best Foreign Language Film. But director and writer Asghar Farhadi also won the nomination for best original screenplay, a rare nomination for a non-English language film.

"Separation" is widely tabbed as having a serious chance of winning the Oscar in the foreign language category when the awards are announced Sunday, February 26. If so, it will be the first Oscar ever awarded to an Iranian despite a raft of nominations.

But one of the other foreign language nominees this year is a film from Israel. The Islamic Republic does not permit its athletes to enter competitions with Israelis. It will be interesting to see if some hardliners in the regime now push to have that rule applied to the Oscars as well.

This is only the second time that an Iranian film has been nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The first such nomination was in 1999 for "Children of Heaven," directed by Majid Majidi.

The other four nominees for Best Foreign Language Film this year are: "Bullhead," directed by Michael R. Roskam, from Belgium; "Monsieur Lazhar," Philippe Falardeau, from Canada, "Footnote," Joseph Cedar, from Israel; and "In Darkness," Agnieszka Holland, from Poland.

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The surprise was that Farhadi also received a nomination for writing the best original screenplay. The competition there will be a lot tougher as Farhadi will be up against both Woody Allen and the writer of "The Artist," which has been nominated for the Best Picture award as well.

The US distributor of "Separation" said it was lobbying for nominations for the film in both the best director and cinematography categories, as well as the foreign language film category. Still, it is unusual for a foreign language film to receive a writing nomination. And all the films "Separation" is competing against in the original screenplay category are written in English.

The four other nominees in the Original Screenplay category are: "The Artist" written by Michel Hazanavicius; "Bridesmaids" by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig; "Margin Call" by J.C. Chandor; and "Midnight in Paris" by Woody Allen.

"Separation" is considered the favorite in the foreign language category. The film, which nabbed the Golden Globe foreign language award last week, centers on a dispute involving a couple who must decide whether to leave Iran to offer their child a better life, or stay to take care of an ailing parent. The film has been universally embraced by critics. It currently has a 99 percent fresh rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

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The US State Department took the very unusual step of congratulating Farhadi after he received the Golden Globe award last week. "We would like to formally congratulate Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi," said Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman. "We applaud his achievement and it is a testament to the richness and the resilience of Persian culture."

Reporters could not recall any other commercial film that ever won an accolade from a State Department spokesperson. The praise appeared to be part of the department's constant effort to impress on Iranians that the US conflict is with the government of the Islamic Republic and not with the Iranian people or culture as the Islamic Republic constantly charges.

Iranians have received a total of 15 Oscar nominations over the years. The complete list of nominees is in the accompanying box. All but three of those nominations have gone to expatriates living in the United States, Britain and France. Farhadi and Majidi are the only nominees living in Iran.

An interesting point of the nominations is how many categories Iranians have appeared in, showing how widely the Diaspora has penetrated the entertainment industry. One nomination has come in the acting categories--Shohreh Aghdashloo for her role in "House of Sand and Fog." But others have received nominations for special effects, cinematography, costume design, sound editing and a host of other categories.

Farhadi is not the first Iranian to receive multiple nominations. Habib Zargarpour has been nominated twice for his special effects work and Reza Aghayan, who just died a few months ago, was nominated three times in the 1960s and 1970s for his costume designs.
And the nominees have been ...

Following are the Iranian Oscar nominees over the years:

Year Nominee Film Category

1969 Reza Aghayan Gaily, Gaily Costume Design
1972 Reza Aghayan Lady Sings the Blues Costume Design
1975 Reza Aghayan Funny Lady Costume Design
1997 Habib Zargarpour Twister Special Effects
1997 Darius Khondji Evita Cinematography
1998 Hossein Amini The Wings of the Dove Screenplay
1999 Majid Majidi Children of Heaven Foreign Lang. Film
2000 Mehdi Nowruzian Killing Joe Live Action Short
2001 Habib Zargarpour The Perfect Storm Special Effects
2004 Shohreh Aghdashloo House of Sand and Fog Supporting Actress
2007 Kami Asgar Apocalypto Sound Editing
2008 Marjane Satrapi Persepolis Animated Feature Film
2009 Emud Mokhberi Oktapodi Short Film Animated
2012 Asghar Farhadi Separation Foreign Lang. Film
2012 Asghar Farhadi Separation Original Screenplay
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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Article Type:Movie review
Date:Jan 27, 2012
Words:854
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