While A Separation is the first Iranian movie ever to win the Oscar for best foreign-language film, Iran has been a cinema hotbed for decades, turning out exceptional work despite the strict codes of behavior imposed upon directors. Some have argued that the restrictions themselves have been an artistic plus, forcing filmmakers to become more creative in terms of expressing complex emotions. For instance, since men and women are not allowed to touch in any affectionate manner in Iranian movies, filmmakers employ camera placement, low-key lighting and subtle subtext—instead of copious action—to get the job done.
A Separation, which was written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, is a highly ambitious piece of work. It successfully tackles a range of topics and themes, from class, religion and gender to pride, guilt and justice. It is a tale that appears uniquely Iranian but quickly transcends physical and spiritual borders to portray the difficulty of doing the right thing under difficult, even life-threatening circumstances.