I’d like to recommend “A Separation,” an Academy Award 2011 movie made in Iran. The film is not violent but it is extremely intense. It’s about a quarreling husband and wife, living an urban, car-driving, apartment-dwelling life. Children’s school examinations and the care of an Alzheimer’s-afflicted parent are the crucial issues–not Israel or, in fact, any kind of political or religious ideology.
On one level, this is a movie about how the dissolution of a marriage affects people–regular, fundamentally decent people. At a deeper level it’s about willfulness and stubbornness, which means it speaks to all of us, whatever our circumstances. I won’t give away the ending, which is a surprise that sticks in your mind.
While the movie is not particularly religious, it’s interesting in depicting an Islamic society. Just as is the case in America, religion touches people in many very ordinary ways. The devout and the non-devout act quite differently in some ways, and in others are just the same. It’s not a pro-Islamic movie. I would say, however, that it reflects a fundamentally Islamic view of family and marriage, perhaps because of the makers’ convictions, and perhaps simply because that is what the artists had to work with in making an Iranian picture.
From what I can tell, Islam is a religion profoundly in crisis, trapped in a dead-end. Nevertheless, the Islam behind this film is deeply humane, and its convictions about humanity are both strongly felt and relevant to all people. It spoke to me.
Learning comes from many sources, including some that we find surprising. That is one more reason to take care not to demonize others.