A Separation (2011)
Asghar Farhadi, Iran
Keeping up with the full gamut of international cinema is no easy task, and discovering new gems in the vastly growing international market is often even harder. And that's where film festivals, and to a lesser degree, award shows come in. Without these entities, I don't think I would have discovered the genius that is Asghar Farhadi. This is one filmmaker that can simply do no wrong, and someone I'll be following so long as he continues making movies. And it's all thanks to A Separation. I've never seen a domestic drama so tame and natural, yet has this palpable intensity to it all at the same time. It's a film that should really serve as a benchmark for the drama genre. Without engaging it any over the top theatrics, Farhadi crafts a quiet film with a sense of reserved realism, that somehow feels overly cinematic. The emotional arcs that the characters go through are fully developed, and each time the plot progresses to a higher note, it feels well earned. Cultural nuances aside, this is a perfect example of how cinema is a truly universal art form that can touch and affect anyone if it tries to. It might still be a bit early in this film's history, but I would put money on A Separation being essential viewing for generations to come. Not because it's the first Iranian film to win an Oscar (a feat that was repeated by Farhadi's 2016 effort The Salesman), or because it was likely the first exposure to Iranian cinema for a lot of viewers. The reasoning has nothing to do with culture or politics, and has everything to do with how good the film is. A Separation is damn perfect from beginning to end, and that is ultimately what it will be remembered for.