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“One thing that I'm sure I'll never do is deliver messages through cinema”

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Asghar Farhadi • Director

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- Asghar Farhadi spoke to the press at Doha's Qumra about both his recent Oscar win and the Spanish project he has in the works, produced by Pedro Almodóvar and starring Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem

Asghar Farhadi • Director

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi has made history once again this year. After becoming the first director from his country to win an Academy Award — he received the Best Foreign-language Film award for A Separation in 2012 — he repeated the feat just a few weeks ago, taking home his second Oscar for Best Foreign-language Film for The Salesman [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
. Farhadi is now in pre-production with his new, as-yet-untitled Spanish project, which is being co-produced by Pedro Almódovar's company El Deseo. As usual,  he is keeping most of the details under wraps. All he has made public are the names of the actors who will lead the cast (Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem) and the fact that the story will revolve around the tribulations of a family — a recurring theme in his work. Shooting for the film, in which all characters will be Spanish-speaking, is expected to start this summer and be completed next year. Farhadi took questions from the international press during his participation in Doha Film Institute's Qumra this week.

What was it like, going through the whole experience of receiving this second Oscar?
Asghar Farhadi: I had already been through this journey with A Separation, but it was a little different this time. I had a different distributor, Amazon, and I had fewer occasions to go to the United States to promote the film. The film was already well known, people had already seen it, and I didn't really need to go there and introduce it. Originally, I was going to go to the ceremony, that was my initial intention, but then, because of the Donald Trump travel ban I made the decision not to go but to follow the ceremony online instead.

You are now in Spain, about to make a film with two big stars. Does that change things for you in any way?
As you know, I made The Past [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
in France, so I already had that experience of working abroad. After that I was supposed to start work on a Spanish project, but all of a sudden, it was something very personal and intuitive, I felt that I needed to go back home and make a film in Iran, and that’s what happened with The Salesman. Now I’m back on that original project; I'm working here in Spain on the script, and we are still in the development phase. It's true that they are stars, but like all of the actors I work with, I get along well with them. They are very warm and friendly people, and I very much enjoy the time I spend with them. 

Why did you choose these two actors in particular?
We have a very easy, friendly, relaxed relationship and we happen to all be very enthusiastic about the script, so that’s a good way to start the project. 

You are working with Pedro Almodóvar. How did this come about, and why did you want to work with him?
I started off with my usual producer (Alexandre Mallet-Guy) from the French company Memento. As the film would be set in Spain, the company needed a co-producer who was based over there, and the first person we thought of was Pedro Almodóvar and his company El Deseo — first of all because I love his work and also because I know that his is the most professional production company in Spain, and they have done a great job with all their previous films. 

Will your future projects have anything to say about the current political climate in the world? Would you want to send out any particular message?
There are two things that I'm sure I'll never do in my life. One is make political movies; I don't like to see the world through the very narrow view of politics. I like dealing with society, with people, not with politics, which is something that belongs to a very small group of people. The other thing that I'm sure I'll never do is deliver messages through cinema. Messages are not valid these days. Our films should ask questions instead of presenting answers. 

Can you imagine yourself making a film with comic elements, or even a comedy?
That is one of my greatest wishes. I hope to do a comic film one day, to deal with our humanity through comedy. That would be a very difficult task, but I hope to do it soon, maybe next time I come back to work in Iran. I wouldn't even try to make a comedy outside of my own culture, that's not something I find feasible. One of my favourite directors is Billy Wilder —  I love that kind of cinema.

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