Moving Iran drama lights up Berlin film festival

Tue Feb 15, 2011 8:09am EST
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By Mike Collett-White BERLIN (Reuters) - Iranian drama "Nader and Simin: A Separation," a moving family saga and absorbing crime thriller rolled into one, lit up the Berlin film festival on Tuesday and became the movie to beat for the coveted Golden Bear award.

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi won the Silver Bear for best director in 2009 with "About Elly," and long and loud applause at the end of a press screening ahead of its official world premiere suggested he could go one better with his new picture.

It was a welcome lift for Berlin, where critical reaction to the films shown so far in the main competition lineup of 16 entries has generally been lukewarm.

Simin is a middle class Iranian woman who wants to leave the country with her husband Nader and their 11-year-old daughter to build a better life abroad. Nader refuses, choosing instead to care for his frail father who is suffering from Alzheimer's.

Simin leaves home, and her husband struggles to cope with his job and family duties. He hires a woman to care for his father, but when he returns to his apartment and discovers she has left and tied the old man to a chair, he loses his temper.

Nader ends up in court as a result of the ensuing row, bringing him into conflict with a poorer, more traditional and religiously devout family.

The truth of what happened is gradually revealed throughout the ensuing tragedy, during which both families elicit our sympathy as do the two innocent daughters caught in the middle.

"There are many undercurrents in society that can lead to (such) predicaments," Farhadi told reporters in Berlin, speaking through an interpreter.

"One is the struggle between the classes -- between the poor, who are more traditional and religious, and the other class which wants to live according to modern rules.   Continued...