TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's state TV described the country's foreign film Oscar win on Monday as a victory over Israel, in a gesture of official approval toward an Iranian movie industry criticized by hardliners.
The official reaction to the victory of "A Separation" in Sunday's awards ceremony was cast in nationalist terms and in the light of Iran's confrontation with its arch-foe, which also had a film, "Footnote," competing for the foreign language Oscar.
The broadcast said the award won by "A Separation" succeeded in "leaving behind" a film from the "Zionist regime." It emphasized that the film won several Iranian awards in 2011, too.
To portray a film award as a nationalist triumph is a departure for the state media.
Iran has an extensive movie industry, and the country's films have won wide international acclaim even as other sectors of the economy face sanctions and other forms of pressure over Tehran's controversial nuclear program.
The U.S. and Israel have not ruled out military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, which they say are aimed at developing weapons technology.
Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes like energy production and cancer treatment. The media regularly announces what it says are technological and scientific breakthroughs, described as major national achievements.
Iranian sports victories too are highlighted by the government as a source of national greatness. Officials are often dismissive about international cultural and entertainment awards, on the other hand.
Clampdowns by hard-liners in recent years have included artists and others, forcing some to flee the country or work underground.
Many Iranian conservatives were upset with the themes of "A Separation": domestic turmoil, gender inequality, and the desire by many Iranians to leave the country.
For now, those reservations appear to be put to rest by the glamor of an Oscar.
"A Separation" tells the story of a couple heading for divorce and dealing with domestic troubles, including a young child and an aging parent. It portrays a husband who is protective of his father who is suffering from Alzheimer's. He is in conflict with his wife, who wishes to emigrate. Their daughter is torn between them.
Director Asghar Farhadi said he thought the Oscar nomination for "A Separation" pleased some in the Iranian government and not others: "The Iranian government is not unanimous at all," he said.
Iranian artists and the public were delighted by the win.
Tahmineh Milani, director of the acclaimed 2005 film "Unwanted Woman", said the Oscar for the Iranian movie was a source of "national pride." She said the award "revived hope in the hearts of all Iranians" regardless of their professions.
Nima Behdadi Mehr a cinema columnist in pro-reform Mardomsalari daily believed the award , "would help Iranian cinema to come out of its isolation."
He hoped that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would grant Farhadi a "special prize" to positively publicize Iranian accomplishments.
Many in Tehran watched the ceremony, even though it was held after midnight local time.
"I feel fresh air in my lungs. I watched the ceremony through satellite TV channels with four of my friends," said Erfan Khazaei, an art student in Azad University. "Now we are more hopeful about the future," he said.
Ebrahim Fayyaz, a prominent hardline sociologist, told Nasim news website that "A Separation" is one of the worst Iranian films.
He said it was a "black realistic film" that portrays the country as an old man, as a symbol of tradition and the past, afflicted with Alzheimer's. He said the movie suggests emigrating to the West as a solution.
"The West awards movies that are in direction of their policies," he said.