An Iranian filmmaker has won the country's first Oscar, taking the prize for the best foreign-language film at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles, and Tehran has celebrated by touting it as a victory over its archenemy.
Director Asghar Farhad's "A Separation," already the recipient of a number of high-profile international awards, was awarded an Oscar on February 26 over films from Belgium, Poland, Canada, and Israel.
But it was the win over the Israeli entry, "Footnote," that has garnered most of the attention.
"This is the beginning of the collapse of the influence of the Zionist lobby over American society," read a statement issued by Javad Shamaghdari, the head of Iran's Cinematic Agency. Describing the win as an "unusual reaction to the Zionist lobby," Shamaghdari said the Oscar marked the "beginning of the collapse" of Israeli influence.
Iranian state television, meanwhile, reported that the Iranian movie had "left behind" a film from the "Zionist regime."
With the victory, according to a report by Iran's Student News Agency (ISNA), an "Iranian flag has been planted atop America."
'Heavy Dust Of Politics'
In accepting his Oscar, Farhadi alluded to the current political tensions surrounding his country, saying Iran's rich culture has been hiding "under the heavy dust of politics."
Director Asghar Farhadi (center) poses with actor Peyman Maadi (left) and the film's director of photography, Mahmoud Kalari, after winning the Oscar.
"At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy," he said. "They are happy not just because of an important award, or a film, or a filmmaker, but because -- at a time of tug of war, intimidation, and aggressions exchanged between politicians -- the name of their county, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.
"I proudly offer this award to the people of my country," he continued, "the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment. Thank you so much."
"People in Iran follow the Oscars a lot more than you think they do," Farhadi was later quoted as telling reporters. "I know for a fact that right now, as the event is happening, it's in the middle of the night, in the middle of the morning, and people are not sleeping. I know they are following."
Iran's state-run TV channels did not broadcast the Oscar ceremony, but millions of Iranians watched via satellite television.
Iranian hard-liners have been critical of "A Separation," which highlights issues like gender inequality and Iranians' desire to leave the country for a better life abroad.
It tells a story of a middle-class couple, Nader and Simin. Simin dreams of leaving Iran, especially for the sake of the couple's young daughter. Her husband, however, wants to stay in Iran to look after his elderly father.
"A Separation" won the prestigious Golden Bear, the top award at the Berlin International Film Festival, and best foreign-language film at the Golden Globe awards in the United States.
On social media sites and in interviews with RFE/RL, many said the award made them feel proud and happy.
"As Farhadi said, we respect all countries and culture. [Officials] often say things that don't reflect our views," a man from Tehran said.
Another man in the Iranian capital told RFE/RL that Iranians are happy their country has made headlines because of a "cultural achievement" instead of its controversial nuclear program.
An Iranian woman said the Oscar brought her hope at a difficult time, when her country faces escalating international pressure and tough sanctions.
Many Iranians stayed up all night to follow the Oscar ceremony on television, and posted comments on Facebook and Twitter under the hashtag #Oscar90.
One Iranian journalist described the award as “a historical and happy moment” for a nation unused to joy.
With AP, ISNA, and IRIB reports