Bloggers and Facebook pundits conceded on Monday that having Joseph Cedar’s Footnote lose the Oscar to Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation in the Best Foreign Language Film category at Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony was preferable to ending up on the short end of the current heated nuclear war of words and actions between the two countries.
And they were not the only ones to connect the Israeli- Iranian tensions to the film contest. Iranian state TV termed the results a victory over Israel “leaving behind” a film from the “Zionist regime.”And Javad Shamaghdari, head of Iran’s Cinematic Agency, portrayed the Academy’s decision as the “beginning of the collapse” of Israeli influence that “beats the drum of war” in the US, according to wire service reports.Farhadi himself attempted to step away from the huffy rhetoric during his acceptance speech at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, saying that Iran is “spoken [about] here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.”“I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment,” he added, apparently unaware of the statements being made back in Tehran.The Israeli film-going public has been curious about A Separation since it opened at select theaters earlier this month, with sold-out screenings and tallies of over 30,000 viewers thus far.Cedar, who lost out on his second Oscar after his 2008 nominee Beaufort also fell by the wayside, had no public comment following the ceremony, and is on his way back to Israel. The results marked the fourth time in five years that an Israeli film has been nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category without winning.Other entries vying for the prize this year included In Darkness, by Poland’s Agnieszka Holland, Bullhead by Belgium’s Michael Roskam, and Monsieur Lazhar by Canada’s Philippe Falardeau.A few miles away from the Kodak Theater, some 200 Israelis gathered at a hotel to watch the awards at an event sponsored by the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles and the Israel Leadership Council. While A Separation had been the favorite coming into the competition, there were still audible groans when the winner was announced, according to a report in The Jewish Journal.David Siegel, Consul-General of Israel in Los Angeles, noted that Israeli movies and television programs were showing the world that “Israel is not just about conflict but has become a fountainhead of creative talent,” The Jewish Journal reported.“We’re now ‘the people of the book,’ and of the film,” Siegel said.Eli Teme, co-chair of the Israel Leadership Council, expressed the hope that Iran, having been recognized by the West for its cultural achievement, might moderate its political rhetoric.While that remains to be seen, the consensus among film buffs and social media mavens is that the best film won, and that no political message should be gleaned from the results.“Footnote was good, but the last 20 minutes dragged,” posted one local bleary-eyed Oscar viewer on Facebook. “A Separation was perfect. That’s why it won. Period.”