Will Iran’s next Oscar-winning film be in Spanish?

Al Monitor| Zahra Alipour: Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s latest project is a Spanish-language film set in rural Iberia and starring Spain’s most celebrated acting couple: Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. The film, not yet titled, will be Farhadi’s second production outside his native Iran. In 2013, he wrote and directed “The Past,” a drama shot in France. It starred French-Argentine actress Bérénice Bejo, who later won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance.

In 2010, French actress Juliette Binoche won the same award for her role in another film made by an Iranian director. “Certified Copy,” shot in Italy, was directed by the acclaimed Abbas Kiarostami, who died on July 4, 2016, and was his first feature film made outside Iran. Kiarostami subsequently made the 2012 “Like Someone in Love,” set in Japan. When asked by an Iranian reporter in May 2012 why he did not make his films in his homeland, Kiarostami said, “If I request a license [to film in Iran], they would easily give it to me, but there is no guarantee as to whether this license will be valid six months later or when the film is ready. I cannot jeopardize other people’s money or my own peace of mind. Therefore, as long as a license has no real meaning, I will not make any films in Iran.”

Kiarostami was refering to the Iranian law that requires a production and a screening license from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to make or screen a film in Iran. Many projects obtain a production license but then face issues in procuring one for screening, making it risky for producers to invest in Iranian cinema.

Other Iranian directors have also made films abroad. While some of these productions have been publicly screened in Iran, others never made it to local theaters.

Iranian director Abolfazl Jalili told Al-Monitor, “After the revolution, I was among the first people who were invited to France to make a film. When I asked the producer who had invited me why I had been selected, he said it was because they wanted to make a film for the younger generation and since I had worked in the field and they had seen my films, they thought that I could have a greater impact than other directors. Of course, I was enthusiastic too.”

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