Sep 25, 2012

Iran will not defend its Oscar statue

I had the first episode of my new series on Iranian cinema all edited and ready to post, but it feels strange to write about Iranian cinema today and ignore the big news. The Iranian government has decided to boycott the Oscars in an act of protest to the release of Innocenceof Muslims.

It’s painful, to be honest; particularly because it had been announced earlier that Reza Mirkarimi’s A Cube of Sugar was going to be Iran’s representative in the category this year. It’s a gentle, thoughtful film by one of the greatest directors of Iranian cinema's new generation. I’ve always rooted for his success since his exquisite first feature, Under the Moonlight, and I’d have loved to see him take another stab at this. (Iran’s 2005 submission was Mirkarimi’s best work to date, So Close, So Far, which is criminally overlooked on the international scene.) This of course comes on the back of the country's first win for Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, so Iran becomes one of only a handful of countries not to attempt to defend its statue. (Film Actually’s Shane pointed me to South Africa and Bosnia who didn’t submit films after Tsotsi and No Man’s Land, respectively. If you know of more examples let me know in the comments.)
Reza Kianian in A Cube of Sugar

Mirkarimi and his film aside, I just can’t see how the decision to boycott the Oscars helps any of parties involved. Why deprive the Iranian film community of the chance to show its best work on the world’s greatest stage? It doesn’t seem like a trade off, just a lose-lose situation. If the reason for this boycott is that Iranians feel insulted by Innocence of Muslims, wouldn’t a worthy film in response send a better message to the world than simply boycotting the Oscars and leaving the scene altogether? And in any case, Innocent of Muslims is absolutely asinine but responding to it at all, whether in the form of a boycott or more aggressively, with riots and violence and shootings and killings as we've seen in other Muslim countries in the aftermath of its "release" is even more...stupid. If you don’t like the film, don’t watch it and move on. This type of reactionary approach only validates it. Besides, I can guarantee you that before the ceremony is even held, barely anyone will remember the name of this "film".

As for A Cube of Sugar – which, by the way, stars my favourite Iranian actor of all time, Reza Kianian - well, it was not A Separation, but it had a decent shot, believe it or not. It’s exactly the type of film that older voters in this category welcome with open arms and it’s a heck of lot of better than some of the recent winners. But alas, Iranians will have to wait another year.


  1. That is sad news, especially when A Separation seems to be bringing Iranian film makers the respect they deserve. I haven't seen The Innocence of Muslims, but of course I've heard about it. I feel confident almost everybody in the non-Muslim world recognizes it for the ridiculous, ignorant filth it is. To boycott the Oscars over it is to give it more attention than it deserves. :-(

    I am glad I discovered your blog (I followed you over here from And So It Begins) and I am looking forward to your series on Iranian cinema. It's something I know virtually nothing about (I live in the U.S.), and I am eager to learn more about Iranian life and culture as well.

  2. Thanks for reading Stephanie. Really glad to have you over here!

    As for the Innocence video, you're absolutely right. It just increases the attention on a awful work that doesn't merit it at all. As I mentioned, I think replying with a thoughtful work of art is much more sensible than boycotting, but then again, this whole debacle is completely nonsensical.