An Introduction to Asghar Farhadi

Actress Taraneh Alidoosti plays Rana in filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning thriller “The Salesman.” She has also appeared in three of Farhadi’s earlier films. (Credit: Cohen Media Group)
If you don’t know filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, you’re missing the extraordinary work of one of the premiere figures of the Iranian New Wave cinema movement.

Filmworks will show the master director’s latest, the thriller “The Salesman,” on Friday, April 14 at the historic Tower Theatre. The film won this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It tells the story of a couple acting in a theater production of Arthur Miller’s famed play “Death of a Salesman.” The wife is assaulted in her new home, which leaves the husband determined to find the perpetrator over her objections.

You’ve got plenty of time before our screening of “The Salesman” to track down and watch some of Farhadi’s previous films, which critics have celebrated as eye-opening examples of “human cinema.”

“The Past” (2013)
IMDb synopsis: An Iranian man deserts his French wife and her two children to return to his homeland. Meanwhile, his wife starts up a new relationship, a reality her husband confronts upon his wife’s request for a divorce.
Of note: “The Past” is perhaps the Farhadi film with the most recognizable star actors: Bérénice Bejo (“The Artist” and “Populaire”) and Tahar Rahim (“The Cut” and “A Prophet”).

“A Separation” (2011)
IMDb synopsis: A married couple are faced with a difficult decision: to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer’s disease.
Of note: “A Separation” was Farhadi’s introduction to most American audiences, after it won Best Foreign Language Film at both the Oscars and the Golden Globes. Filmworks screened the pitch-perfect drama at the 2012 Fresno Film Festival.

“About Elly” (2009)
IMDb synopsis: The mysterious disappearance of a kindergarten teacher during a picnic in the north of Iran is followed by a series of desperate misadventures for her fellow travelers.
Of note: “About Elly” was released internationally a full two years before “A Separation,” but the dramatic mystery didn’t gain attention in the U.S. until it was re-released theatrically in 2013, long after the 2012 awards-season success of “A Separation.”

“Fireworks Wednesday” (2006)
IMDb synopsis: On the last Wednesday before the spring solstice ushers in the Persian New Year, people set off fireworks following an ancient tradition. Rouhi, spending her first day at a new job, finds herself in the midst of a different kind of fireworks: a domestic dispute between her new boss and his wife.
Of note: I borrowed a DVD copy of “Fireworks Wednesday” from the Fresno County Public Library. I instantly recognized the character Rouhi to be played by the young actress Taraneh Alidoosti — one of the most identifiable faces in Iranian television, and who played the troubled title character in “About Elly.” She began working with Farhadi at age 20, and 13 years later she has appeared in four of his films. She co-stars in “The Salesman.”

Jefferson Beavers serves as development director for Filmworks.