Tehran — Winning the Best Foreign Language Film award at the Golden Globes might not mean much in most countries, but in Iran many stayed up through the night to watch Madonna announce that “A Separation” by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi took the 2012 prize.
The Hollywood award for a film embraced by the urban middle classes here as the untold story of their lives was a rare moment of optimism after months of increased sanctions and threats of war.
“I feel so great today,” said Reihan Reihani, 28, a poet. “ ‘A Separation’ is about our daily lives, our daily problems. It shows that we Iranians are not different from ordinary people all over the world.”
On Facebook, blocked by Iran’s government but accessed by many Iranians using special software, people changed their profile pictures to images of Farhadi receiving the Golden Globe.
“My fingers hurt from liking each post about A Separation,” Hooman Hoomani posted. “But I won’t stop.”
“A Separation” centers around the unraveling marriage of Nader and Simin, a couple in their 40s. It highlights the daily accommodations one needs to make in Iran to be protected from suffocating laws and traditions.
The drama continues to resonate powerfully with those who took to the streets in 2009 protesting against what they say was fraud during President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection. The movie was released at the same time as “Ekhrajiha 3,” a state-backed comedy that mocked the protests. Activists on the Internet urged one another to buy massive quantities of tickets for “A Separation.”
Many in Iran have their own interpretations of the film. “It shows how the position of women has changed in Iran,” said Guity Heydari, 30, a teacher. “We make our own choices now, no matter the cost,” she said of main character Simin deciding whether to leave her husband and child.
In the past days, hard-line media said that the nation should be insulted because pictures emerged of director Farhadi shaking hands with Angelina Jolie. In Iran – and in the movie – direct contact between unmarried men and women is not allowed by law.
However, on Sunday night, Farhadi did not shake hands with Madonna, a singer whose music is illegal in Iran for being too Western.
“Shaking hands is normal for us,” said Reihani, “but not for some in our society.”
The Golden Globe frenzy has increased hopes that the film will also win an Oscar, which would be a first for an Iranian film.
“Maybe some people in our society don’t like this film,” said Houshang Golmakani, editor of a film magazine. “But this is the best public diplomacy Iran has had in a long time.”
Update: An earlier version of the post incorrectly stated that Asgar Farhadi shook hands with Madonna. He did not.
Special correspondents Somaye Malekian and Ramtin Rastin contributed to this report.