The Iranian Director Who Makes Amazing Movies

January 24th, 2019The Iranian Director Who Makes Amazing Movies

There’s a director who has won multiple Oscars® and is known around the world for making some of the best movies of the past decade. And you probably don’t know his name, because his movies don’t get the sort of promotion enjoyed by big studio films.

Asghar Farhadi’s new film, EVERYBODY KNOWS, might change that. The psychological thriller, opening February 8, stars Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem in a story full of buried secrets that threaten to tear a family apart.

Farhadi makes amazing movies that you’ll love — here’s why he’s one of our favorites.

Straight Outta Iran

[Credit: Focus Features]

Like many other filmmakers who began working before the advent of digital video, Farhadi got his start with 8-mm and 16-mm films. He got a theatre degree from the University of Tehran and did his first professional work in television.

You’d think that emerging as a filmmaking talent in Iran following the 1979 Islamic Revolution might mean the path to worldwide visibility would be difficult. But that would be based in part on the very assumptions about Iranian culture that filmmakers like Farhadi work to dismantle. And anyone who makes films as good as his is bound to get them in theatres.

Festival Favorite

[Credit: Cohen Media Group]

Festivals proved to be the writer/director’s introduction to the world. Farhadi’s fourth film, ABOUT ELLY, was his first major international success thanks in part to the Berlin and Tribeca film festivals. It’s a masterpiece about the power and destructive potential of lies, made more complex by elements of a culture where telling the truth can be difficult. A middle-class Iranian family goes on vacation at a remote Caspian Sea location, and the secluded spot becomes a crucible in which hidden truths and desires are revealed.

Two years later, in 2011, A SEPARATION followed. The plot is simple enough: An Iranian couple tries to divorce. But the reasons for the divorce are complex, as are the laws that prevent it from happening. A SEPARATION is a top-tier character study that frankly examines layers of Iranian culture while allowing its characters to grow to their full potential. The film was nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar® — a rare thing for a non-English-language film — and won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

The director’s 2016 film THE SALESMAN (above), in which a couple endures the lingering traumatic effects of an assault, also won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The powerful story is told in part through Arthur Miller’s play DEATH OF A SALESMAN, which the film’s primary characters perform in a small theatre. It’s an unexpectedly funny film with a devastating ending.

The New Thriller

[Credit: Focus Features]

Now we get to dig into Farhadi’s latest film. EVERYBODY KNOWS, the director’s first Spanish-language film, follows Penélope Cruz’s character, Laura, who travels from Argentina to her small hometown outside Madrid. The occasion is her sister’s wedding, but there are anxieties from the start, primarily because Laura will inevitably see Paco (Javier Bardem), with whom she was in love for years.

Paco and Laura have both since married other people, but Laura’s husband doesn’t join her for the trip, which others find pretty interesting. Farhadi uses the wedding reception as a framework to explore these two people and all of the characters around them — and then, there’s a kidnapping.

The title, EVERYBODY KNOWS, comes to have several meanings over the course of the film. The crime drives Laura and Paco into action, but it doesn’t push them into the obvious romantic plotline. Instead, Farhadi leans in to the superb performances from Cruz and Bardem and allows the rest of the large ensemble cast to have their own moments in which the ties between family members are all tested and proven.

EVERYBODY KNOWS comes to AMC theatres on February 8.

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