Iranian cinema has been well represented at The Oscars, winning two prestigious Academy Awards for best foreign-language film for Asghar Farhadi‘s The Salesman (2016) and A Separation (2011). And now, with the 90th Academy Awards ceremony in the too distant horizon (March 4, 2018), director Narges Abyar’s bittersweet family drama Breath (Nafas) has been selected as Iran’s submission to the best foreign-language film category.
A committee of nine cinema professionals (including four directors, an actor, a composer, a producer, a film critic, and a cinema official) were assigned by Iran’s Farabi Cinema Foundation to select the country’s submission to The Oscars. The film was chosen from a shortlist of four, including Subdued (Rage Khab) by Hamid Nematollah, Malaria by Parviz Shahbazi and Vilaei-Ha by Monir Qeidi. While the votes were split among the competing movies, Breath was selected by a majority vote.
Breath tells the story of Bahar, a little girl who loses her mother at an early age and lives with her father Ghafour (Mehran Ahmadi) and Grandmother (Pantea Panahiha). Bahar loves to read and has a vivid imagination, but growing up in Yazd in the 1970s and ’80s, and with her father volunteering on the warfront following Iraq’s attack on Iran, she is at the centre of a country in turmoil. The Shah is overthrown, Ayatollah Khomeini rises to power and war rages with neighboring Iraq. In an effort to deal with a harsh life filled with pain, death and uncertainty, Bahar copes by spending much of her time in books, filling her mind with dreams and fantasies of a surreal world–a world that helps sooth the pain and helps her make sense of the suffering and death that warring humans inflict on one another.
Abyar has said that she made Breath in praise of peace. The film shows how wars crush children’s dreams and hopes for a bright future.
Breath is Narges Abyar’s third film. Abyar has previously won awards from at the Fajr International Film Festival for Trench 143 and the Audience Award for Best Film at the annual Reel Sydney Festival of World Cinema.
More recently Abyar won the Golden Wolf for best director for Breath at the 20th Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn, Estonia (2016). She also was picked as best director for the film at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival held this past March.
The 90th Academy Awards ceremony will take place in Los Angeles, California on March 4, 2018.