For Mideast foes' Oscar films, family trumps flag

Fri Feb 17, 2012 3:25pm EST
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By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - As their nations warn of war, the Israeli and Iranian directors facing off at next week's Academy Awards share a reluctance to see politics read into their movies, both of which are portraits of troubled families.

Joseph Cedar, director of Israel's "Footnote," and Asghar Farhadi, maker of Iran's "A Separation," stress that their works are about human issues and not conflicted governments that seem to be slipping into ever deeper diplomatic isolation.

Yet, even as the filmmakers put art before politics in competing for the Oscar in the foreign language film category, neither man can escape the fact he hails from a country that is vigilant about its portrayal at home and abroad.

Farhadi created his delicate, Golden Globe-winning divorce drama "A Separation" under Iranian censors who impose strictures in the name of Islamic morality and national morale.

"Footnote", a comedy of errors about a father and son who are Talmud scholars locked in acid rivalry, has been remarked upon in, and welcomed in, Israel for what it lacks -- any mention of the military or of regional enemies.

Cedar's last movie, "Beaufort", also was nominated for the foreign language film Oscar, but its depiction of Israeli troops under fire in Lebanon and the director's anti-war rhetoric were denounced by some countrymen as defeatist.

"I learned not to interpret my own films," Cedar said.

But, in an interview with Reuters, he described "Footnote" as an examination of a debate central to Jewish scholarship.   Continued...