January 24, 2017 / 10:20 PM / a year ago

Iran returns to Oscar race with 'The Salesman'

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Iran returned to the Oscar race on Tuesday with domestic drama “The Salesman” in a foreign language film category that included a Danish war drama, a quirky German comedy, Australian entry about a remote Pacific tribe, and the tale of a grumpy Swede.

Director Asghar Farhadi, Best screenplay award winner for his film "Forushande" (The Salesman), poses during a photocall after the closing ceremony at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Director Asghar Farhadi, who in 2012 gave Iran its first ever Academy Award with domestic drama “A Separation,” was nominated on Tuesday for his latest Farsi-language movie “The Salesman.”

In “The Salesman,” an Iranian couple’s relationship is strained as they perform the American stage classic “Death of a Salesman.”

Iranian censors can impose strictures on filmmakers in the name of Islamic morality and national morale, although Farhadi, who lives and works in Iran, said his 2012 film was not subjected to such censorship.

On Tuesday, Farhadi said artistic restrictions in Iran remain about the same.

“In terms of making my film, I don’t face any difficulty. But when the film is released, notwithstanding its great reception by the public, there is a minority, a very small minority, who attempt to create obstacles. Those kinds of people would even perceive this nomination as some kind of conspiracy,” the director told Reuters.

Australia this year had its first ever nomination in the foreign language film race with “Tanna.” It depicts a man and woman whose forbidden love affair threatens a peace deal between two Yakhel tribes on the South Pacific island of Tanna and is shot in their native language.

Sweden’s “A Man Called Ove” is about a widower whose bleak outlook is improved when he befriends an immigrant neighbor, while Germany got a nod for father-daughter comedy “Toni Erdmann.”

Denmark’s World War Two drama “Land of Mine” tells the story of German prisoners of war forced to remove landmines from a Danish beach.

“It makes a huge difference to be part of that (Academy Award) club,” said director Martin Zandvliet.

Notably absent from the short-list this year was French-language “Elle,” which won the foreign language Golden Globe earlier in January.

Even so, its star Isabelle Huppert was Oscar-nominated in the best actress race for her role as a business woman on the trail of the man who raped her.

“I think that the film might be disturbing on the surface, but deep inside there is an integrity to the film,” Huppert said.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Sandra Maler

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