Asghar Farhadi is an Iranian writer and director born on May 7, 1972. In his teenage years he joined the Youth Cinema Society of Isfahan, where he started making short films in 8mm and 16mm. In 1998 he received his bachelor’s degree in theater from University of Tehran’s School of Dramatic Arts and a few years later he got his master’s degree in stage direction from Tarbiat Modarres University.
Starting in television and making his debut in film writing the movie “Low Heights” (2002) with Ebrahim Hatamikia, Farhadi went on to be one of the best and most acclaimed directors of this century. From his directing debut with “Dancing in the Dust” (2003) to the Oscar-winning “The Salesman” (2016), this is without any doubt one of the best creative voices in cinema nowadays.
To celebrate Farhadi’s career, it is never too late to remember that he has never actually made a bad film, so let’s say that this list is something like “from good to brilliant” or “from great to masterpiece.” Now, here are all seven Asghar Farhadi’s films ranked:
7. Fireworks Wednesday (2006)
In Farhadi’s third feature film we have a tale about jealousy and trust as we follow the story of Roohi, a young woman sent by an agency to clean a family’s house. Arriving there, she sees the conflict of a woman who believes her husband is being unfaithful and is sent after the supposed lover of that woman’s husband.
With amazing performances by Hediyeh Tehrani, Taraneh Alidoosti and Hamid Farokhnezhad, “Fireworks Wednesday” is a portrait of how betrayal has drastic consequences. The conflict starts as a housemaid who is about to get married arrives at this couple’s house and is quickly taken on a tornado of jealousy, paranoia, and of course, unhappiness. This is an announcement of the tone this narrative will have from that moment on.
Having great shots and staging, “Fireworks Wednesday” makes every scene and piece of dialogue meaningful and is an impressive work of Farhadi and Mani Haghighi in screenwriting. Despite the character’s arc not being as developed as it could, especially the husband and Roohi – who could be a little less of a spectator – this film has great visuals and suspense while we see the fireworks emphasizing this family drama.
6. Dancing in the Dust (2003)
From the moment he sets up the story during the opening credits with only few shots and situations, we can understand we are starting to watch a movie from a very prolific voice in writing and directing. It would not be an exaggeration to say that “Dancing in the Dust” is one of the most interesting career debuts of this century in film.
Following the story of Nazar, a man forced by his family to divorce his wife, “Dancing in the Dust” has one of the most amazing character arcs in Farhadi’s filmography and shows from the very first moment that we are about to see a terrifically written film.
After divorcing his wife due to his family’s pressure, because her mother is a prostitute, the young Nazar works hard to pay the restitution to his neglected wife and the costs of his wedding. He ends up not being able to make the payments and goes to the desert where he is forced to coexist with an old and silent man. In the desert, they both catch snakes for their poison as Nazar tries to make enough money for his debts.
“Dancing in the Dust” is a great beginning for Farhadi and certainly points out many of the themes he would approach in his future works. The way he uses his character’s arcs to talk about society are all over this movie in a masterful way, making this a must-see film for any fan of the director.
5. The Salesman (2016)
The winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language film and 2016’s Best Screenplay and Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, “The Salesman” introduces us to Rana and Emad, a couple that is forced to leave their house at the same time they are rehearsing for the play “Death of a Salesman”. They rent an apartment from one of the performers but are not aware that it was previously the house of a woman of a bad reputation who had many clients. One day, an old client visits their place while Rana is alone in the shower, and the peace of the couple is over.
“The Salesman” is without a doubt among the greatest movies from 2016. Featuring great acting by Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini, their performances as a couple bring this film to life while leading us to an unexpected and a fierce ending that truly left audiences worldwide in the edge of their seat.
Once again with great writing, this film shows, in comparison, how more mature Farhadi became in directing, comparing his first two films with this latest one. The way he made this plot occupy the environment and how he directed his actors really shows an artist who takes time and attention in perfecting more and more the craft of filmmaking.
4. About Elly (2009)
Probably the movie that really got Farhadi in a worldwide spotlight, “About Elly”, though not being the best work of his career at the time, is surely a remarkable and amazingly written and staged film. Making the most out of the characters and setting with great mise en scène, “About Elly” is definitely a movie worth seeing.
The story follows a group of friends from Tehran that decide to spend a weekend at the beach. Elly is a kindergarten teacher who is invited by Sepideh, the mother of one of her students, to travel with the other families because Sepideh wants to introduce her to a recently divorced friend. On the second day at the seaside, Elly wants to go back to Tehran, because her mother was submitted to the hospital for heart surgery, but Sepideh hides her luggage and asks her to stay. Right after that, while watching the kids play at the beach, Elly disappears, and from that moment on, with us not knowing whether she drowned or traveled back to Tehran, secrets start to appear.
“About Elly” makes a very bold choice of making a movie about a character who is not present for most of the film. The way the people that surrounded her at first start to unveil their true intentions and personalities, while everything that happens in this film is about an absent character, makes it truly a remarkable story to be watched.
Being the fourth feature film in Farhadi’s career, “About Elly” is undoubtedly a must-see movie. It also won the Silver Bear for Best Director in 2009’s Berlin Film Festival and the Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature in 2009’s Tribeca Film Festival.
3. Beautiful City (2004)
The second feature film from Farhadi follows the story of A’la, a man who, after being released from imprisonment, tries to save his friend Akbar from being executed. Akbar committed murder when he was 16 and now, at 18 years old, his conviction can be carried out. The story revolves around A’la becoming closer to Akbar’s sister and trying to convince the father of the girl he killed to forgive him.
This film is another example of how great Farhadi is at screenwriting. All of the characters here are amazingly explored, even when they have very little time on screen. The way this story moves forward, and how the relations between the characters come closer and become more complex, start to point this scenario to a complicated ending, and the road through this narrative is prodigiously conducted by Farhadi.
With great dialogue and such a marvelous attention to detail and the characters’ actions, “Beautiful City” may not have the most inspiring performances, but they do not compromise the final result, and this is definitely a movie worth watching for the way Farhadi develops and brilliantly carries out this narrative.
2. The Past (2013)
Following the story of Ahmad, an Iranian man who travels to Paris to complete his divorce procedure from Marie, “The Past” is another complex but brilliant family drama written and directed by Farhadi.
When Ahmad arrives in Paris after a few years, he meets his ex-wife and the daughters she has from a previous marriage while noticing she is in a relationship with a man named Samir who owns a dry cleaning service. Samir has a son and a wife in a coma and a conflict emerges as the older daughter, who has a troubled relationship with her mother because she thinks Samir’s wife is in a coma because of her, unveils a secret.
This film is definitely among Farhadi’s finest works and this is something very meaningful as we could easily say that he has never made a bad movie until now. “The Past” won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, and is a contemporary classic that should definitely be watched by any cinephile.
1. A Separation (2011)
Definitely Farhadi’s masterpiece, “A Separation” follows a couple facing a crisis. The wife wants to leave Iran to provide better opportunities for her daughter while the husband wants to stay in the country to take care of his father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. With that in mind, the wife files for divorce and decides to leave the country.
“A Separation” is Farhadi at his best. The family drama, setting, staging and breathtaking dialogue makes this not only one of the best Iranian films of all time, but one of the best movies made in this century. This family crisis speaks on so many levels about love, ambition, family and society that makes it a mandatory movie for anyone that loves film.
This movie was the first Iranian film to win the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and also the first Iranian film to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. “A Separation” also won the Silver Bear for Best Actress and Best Actor at the 2011’s Berlin Film Festival, the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and it was considered the ninth best movie of this century by BBC’s list “The 21st Century’s 100 Greatest Films”.
Not only because it won all those awards, this is the masterpiece of one of the best directors working today and is undoubtedly a film worth seeing for its complexity. While watching “A Separation” keep in mind that this is a masterful lesson of filmmaking.
Author bio: Vítor Guima is a filmmaker, writer and musician from São Paulo, Brazil. Every day he watches a movie, reads a few pages from a book, listens to an album and freaks out with the feeling of not having enough time to see everything. You can follow him on Instagram on @ovitorguima.