Still from "The Salesman"

Still from "The Salesman"

“The Salesman” Makes Headlines

"The Salesman" screens Sunday, February 5, at the National Gallery of Art as part of Reseeing Iran: The 21st Annual Iranian Film Festival.
“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"
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.

Tom Vick

Tom Vick is curator of film at the Freer and Sackler and the author of "Time and Place are Nonsense: The Films of Seijun Suzuki and Asian Cinema: A Field Guide."

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