Art And Culture

Can ‘Today’ Become A New ‘Separation’?

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Can ‘Today’ Become  A New ‘Separation’?Can ‘Today’ Become  A New ‘Separation’?

‘Today’, the latest film by well-known director Reza Mir-Karimi, has been chosen as Iran’s candidate for the Oscars to be evaluated for a place among the final nominations for the 2015 best foreign film Academy Award.

In order to get to the final lineup, ‘Today’ should compete with 82 other foreign movies each representing their own country.

Two years ago in 2012, ‘A Separation’ directed by the world famous Asghar Farhadi, grabbed the award for the first time in Iran cinema history. Since then, there have been high expectations for the next selection.

Last year, Mir-Karimi’s earlier film ‘A Cube of Sugar’ was chosen as Iran’s representative for the Academy Award. However, it was never introduced as a cinema official then banned participation in the Oscars due to the release of an offensive American production on the Muslims’ Holy Prophet.

Three months are left for the final line-up to the biggest film event in the world to be announced; so let’s have a look at ‘Today’ to see if it can repeat the unforgettable success that ‘A Separation’ achieved.

 Long Shots, No Dialog

The story is simple yet absorbing. Stunning performances by the two leading characters Parviz Parastoui and Soheila Golestani keep the audience glued until the end. The narrative is linear, no flashback or flash-forward. Editing, shooting, and set design are all as simple as they could be, elements of a classic movie. The film doesn’t pretend to be anything but itself. Long shots and close-ups in silence, few dialogs, not even the soundtrack, yet it doesn’t get boring.

As the story unravels in 24 hours and there are just two locations where we see the events, in the car and at the hospital, there remains only the few characters along with the script to carry the burden of leading the film. Although dialogs play an important role, ‘Today’ is not packed with conversations; yet, we get to know each and every main or minor character through the few dialogs. This is the strength of the script where just one terse line can unveil the whole life of a person; well as otherwise, a long sequence would be needed. Besides, there are not many actors who can make their roles convincing, not only through dialogs but the action.

 Lone Driver

The film starts with the interruption of a middle-aged taxi-driver’s lunch-break when a woman gets into his car. Sympathizing with the woman who is going to hospital, the man starts the car and thus begins a new chain of events.

We understand the woman is pregnant and about to deliver her child but she has nobody in the big city to take care of her. Her only hope lies with the help of the seemingly trustworthy driver. Taking her to the hospital with her documents in his hand, he is wrongly mistaken for her husband, and now has to pay for her hospital costs. The woman’s urgent operation needs money. Left in limbo, the driver struggles within himself to make the correct decision; stay or leave; that is the question! Being in the horns of a dilemma, he finally makes up his mind following an unexpected phone call he receives, but there is more ahead than he imagines.

The driver doesn’t talk much. He doesn’t speak voluntarily. Even if he is asked, he either stares, or suffices to say a few words. As an audience, yet, you get nervous at times since he doesn’t react to whatever is happening around him, even when he stands accused of what he is not responsible for; it makes you say, “Speak up man! Tell them you are innocent!”

Parastoui plays in silence. For such a difficult role where the actor cannot convey any feelings via words, the only weapon left is facial expressions. Parastoui shines in this role and absorbs the viewers just by his looks. His eyes speak conveying the words.

 Would-be Mother

Soheila Golestani plays the would-be mother whose apparent affection towards the baby in her womb, continuous lengthy monologs, and extrovert personality are just contrary to the characteristics of her co-star Parastoui. Nevertheless, similar to Parastoui, her performance is so realistic that at times it stirs your feelings.

The movie is not limited to a certain time or place. The story can happen everywhere every time. This is a key feature which can cause foreign audience to easily connect to the film. Therefore, expecting the movie’s approval by the Academy’s voting members and entry to the final lineup of foreign language films does not seem far-fetched.


 Special Style Director

Beginning his career as a film director in 2001, he has since made 7 movies, with ‘Today’ being the latest. Except for ‘A Cube of Sugar’ which had a large cast and a crowded set, his films usually center on one or two characters, set to go on a symbolic journey, which may transform them in the end. He is admired for integrating simplicity with a conventional story in his works, knowing the risks of rejection by the average filmgoers.

Most of his films have been awarded not only in different editions of Fajr Film Festival in Iran, but in foreign competitions as well. ‘As Simple as That’ got the Golden St. George at the 30th Moscow International Film Festival, 2008. ‘The Child and the Soldier’ his debut film, received the Best Screenplay award from Asia-Pacific Film Festival, 2001. It also grabbed the Critics Week Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, 2001. The Best Director Award and the Special Jury Prize were given to ‘Under the Moonlight’ in Tokyo International Film Festival, 2001.

If not the best, ‘Today’ is among Mir-Karimi’s top works during his 13 years of filmmaking.

 Versatile Actor

After some minor roles, Parastui acted as the leading character in the highly acclaimed yet controversial movie ‘Leily is with Me’ directed by Kamal Tabrizi. The war-comedy was a step forward in his career. Since then, Parastui has expanded his presence as a professional actor able to perform in various roles and different genres.

Following his comic roles, he appeared in ‘The Changed Man’, ‘The Glass Love’, ‘Mummy 3’ and ‘Dear! I’m Not Wound’ before he played a role in the satire film ‘The Lizard’, another work by Kamal Tabrizi. He gained major popularity and fame after playing in the film as Reza Marmoulak (lizard).

He has also starred as a serious war veteran in many of Ebrahim Hatamikia’s and other directors’ war films such as ‘The Glass Agency’, ‘Dead Wave’, ‘In the Name of the Father’, ‘Duel’, and ‘The Bonus of Silence’.

His remarkable performance in ‘The Willow Tree’ (2005) brought him the Crystal Simorgh award for Best Actor at the 2005 Fajr Film Festival. In the movie, he played the role of a middle-aged blind man who successfully recovers his eyesight after an operation. His confrontation with the real world he once just imagined in his mind constructs the events of the story.

In ‘Today’ he is brilliant similar to his previous works; and it is the least the audience expects from him.

 Hopes High

Countries had until October 1 to submit their candidates to the Academy Award for best foreign-language film. Exceeding the 76 submitted movies last year, this year 83 countries, including four first-timers, have sent entries, and the race promises to be highly competitive, with no obvious front-runner. Hopes are high for ‘Today’ to end up among the final five nominees which will be announced January 15, 2015 along with all nominations in other categories.

A week prior to the final announcement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will announce the short-listed 9 foreign-language semi-finalists. This year, also new to the race: the name of the director will be engraved onto the Oscar statuette, in addition to the name of the country. Other than Mir-Karimi, two other Iranian directors are present among the contenders. Jamshid Mahmoudi’s ‘A Few Cubic Meters of Love’ has been chosen as Afghanistan’s submission, and Batin Ghobadi represents Iraq with ‘Mardan’.