AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And we end this hour with a look back at last night's Academy Awards. The Iranian film, "A Separation," won for Best Foreign Language Film. It tells the story of an Iranian couple and their unraveling marriage set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing society. It is the Islamic Republic's first Oscar win and the film received a rare stamp of approval from the Iranian government. State media trumpeted it as a victory over Israel as the Israeli film, "Footnote," was also nominated in the category.
During his acceptance speech, Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi reminded viewers that his country is more than just what people see on the news.
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ASGHAR FARHADI: At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us. And I imagine them to be very happy. They are happy, not just because of an important award or a film or a filmmaker, but because at the time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, rich in Asian culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.
CORNISH: Well, we wondered what Iranians thought of the moment, the speech and the film, so we reached out to Thomas Erdbrink of The Washington Post. He joins us now from Tehran. Welcome.
THOMAS ERDBRINK: Thank you.
CORNISH: So, what has been the response in Iran?
ERDBRINK: People are extremely happy and extremely pleased. For many middle class Iranians, who are the largest group in this country, it is one of the first times that they actually see their own lives out there on the movie screens. These people - they tell me that this is one of the first times that they don't feel stereotyped by either their own state television that always loves to show Iranians as a nation full of fist bumping bearded men who shout, death to America, and also, the Western media that also copies the stereotype of Iranians.
I was speaking today with one woman, a teacher. She told me that this was one of the best days of her life because she said, if people are out there thinking that they can almost now - because of "A Separation" - at least they know who might be (unintelligible).
CORNISH: Are people surprised that the Iranian government actually gave any support to the film? I mean, in the past, they've been quite hard on artists, forcing some to flee the country or work underground. And I know, you know, back in 2010, this film, "A Separation," was under threat of being blocked by the government.
ERDBRINK: Yeah. I think support is a rather big word. The movie did get a very big prize here in Iran comparable to the Oscars, but the Iranian government did have a problem with this movie and this showed itself in Ahmadinejad's movie - (unintelligible) who, only two days ago, spoke out against the Oscars, called it a kind of a minor, unimportant film festival in some backwater country.
But, today, showed his happiness over Iran's win at the Oscars and tried to give it, you know, their own political spin by putting the movie against an Israeli movie and claiming that Iran had won over Zionism. Well, that is not a feeling that normal Iranians have. They just like the movie for what it is and what it shows and that it's their own lives.
CORNISH: That's Thomas Erdbrink of The Washington Post. Thank you so much for talking with us.
ERDBRINK: Thank you.
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