Israeli and Iranian filmmakers whose movies were competing in the foreign language film category shared certain moments of awkwardness during a pre-Oscars symposium, in the wake of Tehran's directive to its citizens to avoid contact with Israelis.
A Separation by Asghar Farhadi became the first Iranian film to win the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film.
The five directors who competed for the Oscar in the foreign language category came together to discuss their craft at a symposium organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences before the ceremony. The organizers had initial concerns that the crisis situation between Iran and Israel might ruin the panel discussion.
Due to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policy to avoid contact with Israelis altogether, Iran's soccer team pulled out of a match with a Serbian team last week because the latter was coached by an Israeli, Avram Grant, according to a Times of Israel report.
The directors sat on the dais according to the alphabetical order of their film titles: Bullhead by Belgium's Michael Roskam, Footnote by Israel's Joseph Cedar, In Darkness by Poland's Agnieszka Holland, Monsieur Lazhar by Canada's Philippe Falardeau and A Separation by Iran's Asghar Farhadi, who was accompanied by a translator.
The seating arrangement inadvertently made sure that Israel's Cedar and Iran's Farhadi wouldn't have to speak to each other. During the two-hour long discussion, both directors didn't exchange conversation. However, they were seen politely applauding at each other's remarks, along with others.
Farhadi's acclaimed work, A Separation had also won the Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes. He was also nominated for Best Screenplay.
The earlier instance of an Iranian movie winning a nomination was in 1997 for Children of Heaven directed by Majid Majidi. The movie lost to Life is Beautiful from Italy.
Cedar refused to use a hand-held microphone due to the Jewish Sabbath and opted for a mike fastened to the armrest of his chair, following advice from a rabbi who said he was permitted to use a microphone as long as he didn't hold it in his hands. Cedar walked two miles from his hotel to the theater for religious reasons.