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Film - Trouble in Tehran

What it's all about

From scenes of a young girl watching her mother pack a few possessions to abandon her home, to the painful negotiations of a father making arrangements for someone to care for his demented elderly parent, A Separation is not for the faint-hearted, writes Jerome Monahan.

But if the winner of the 2012 Oscar for best foreign-language film is demanding, it is also compelling: a challenging and thought-provoking microcosm of life in present-day Iran.

Filmed by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi in a documentary style, it tells the story of a family break-up set against the backdrop of contradictory modern Tehran, where strict religious teachings and the trappings of modern life come into conflict. It is a masterpiece of highly controlled construction.

Farhadi has likened his film to a detective story, but one in which a central disaster occurs from a steady accumulation of small errors and confusions rather than any premeditated act.

A Separation is a highlight of many splendid offerings being screened across the country for National Schools Film Week (1-9 November in Scotland), such as Berlin `36, Miss Bala, The Class and Last Train Home. Now in its 17th year, the festival is on track to top the 2,600 screenings to more than 470,000 young people that took place in 2011.

More than 95 per cent of the films on offer to secondary schools will be foreign-language or independent. Many have been chosen by teachers and most are supplemented with online resources, lectures and question-and- answer sessions. All are likely to be valuable support for a range of curriculum subjects in the classroom.

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