Richard Nixon had his “ping-pong diplomacy” with China. Maybe it’s time for Barack Obama to try a little “Oscar diplomacy” with Iran.
So here’s an off-the-wall “red carpet” proposal: President Obama should invite the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi to the White House — not to talk politics, a subject over which the two countries are sharply divided, but to talk about what makes a good movie, which Farhadi’s award-winning film “A Separation” surely is.
If you were watching Sunday night’s otherwise forgettable Academy Awards presentation, you know that Farhadi won the prize for “best foreign film” for his powerful story about the unintended consequences and suffering that ensue when a marriage unravels. It’s a powerful story because it’s a universal one: The setting is unmistakably today’s Tehran, but the characters struggle to keep faith with each other in a way that audiences everywhere will recognize.
Farhadi’s acceptance speech was moving because it was as clear and direct as his film:
“At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us, and I imagine them to be very happy. They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or filmmaker, but because at the time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture — a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.”
So, Mr. President, invite this gifted filmmaker to the White House to celebrate his wonderful film — and signal to his countrymen that while the United States resolutely opposes Iranian policies and its threat to Israel, we respect the people of Iran and the country’s culture.
Who knows? If a process of change can begin with a ping-pong paddle, maybe it can also begin with a golden statuette.