Taraneh Alidoosti’s dramatic drama “The Salesman,” whose script “plays on multiple levels,” has been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. Her filmography includes “Morocco,” which was lost in the process of acquiring the Oscar for Best Picture. This is one of few films to win the Oscar for Best Picture without having been featured at the Oscar Awards. Despite this minor consolation, Taraneh Alidoosti has achieved an unlikely feat: She has ignored the Oscar Awards and the press for her movie. Her decision is, perhaps, bold, courageous and a mark of resilience. But it is also a symptom of cinema at its best.
The Salesman centers on Iranian businessman Behbir Kadhai. When a superstar agent (Shodhavi Samantie), who wants to portray a famous role, approaches him, Behbir is hesitant. He tells the agent, “My father is an immigrant from Iran. I don’t want to upset the Americans by warding off an Oscar nod by giving Iran the award.” But on the day of the Oscar Awards, when cameras caught the scene, Behbir was busy celebrating with his family and friends in a restaurant in Beverly Hills.
It would be irresponsible to pretend that The Salesman isn’t timely. Over the past few years, the political rhetoric against Iran has become increasingly bellicose. Many in the country feel that the United States is losing patience and might actually start a war with Iran. For a moment, it may seem like Taraneh Alidoosti has sided with the enemies of her homeland. Yet she remains a loyal friend to her fellow Iranians. The book is a poignancy about how the lure of Hollywood can affect us as we try to make our way in the world.
The story starts in California. Behbir’s cousin Nava Kdadia and her husband Hossein are preparing for their son’s arrival. They have arranged for their son’s birth in Iran so that Nava can visit her son in Iran after the delivery. She plans to spend the week in California. But when news of President Trump’s executive order banning travelers from certain countries including Iran, Nava calls a friend in California who is a visa consultant.
The Consultant checks out the latest gossip in Hollywood regarding a war between Iran and the United States. She passes on this information to Behbir. The Salesman agrees to go along; but he insists that he does not want to get into any trouble with the authorities at the Cannes film festival. Nava tells her friend that the Salesman is actually an Iranian. The Consultant tells Alidoosti that no woman can enter the festival without a male escort. This incites the Iranian authorities to harass the tourists and to cancel the film festival.
Behbir contacts his cousin Nava and tells her about the situation. He tells her that he has heard that the Canadian company that was planning to film a movie in Iran was threatened by the Iranian authorities with violence. He says that the Canadian government had offered them $1 million in exchange for their property and visa permits. Nava is very worried that the authorities will block the project because of Canadian citizenship.
The Consultant and his cousin Alidoosti decide to go back to Canada to apply for tourist visas. Meanwhile the Salesman makes a trip to Iran to find out about the project. Once there he manages to sell his product to the authorities who happily allow him to proceed with the filming.
Later in the evening the Iranian authorities cancel the film festival, stating that they received the application form late. But not before the Consultant manages to tweet about the whole event. On his way back to Canada he tweets that he will give all his money to the Canadian embassy. He tells his friends that he will bequeath all his properties to his cousin Nava and that he will be buried in Iran with his family. As news of the story spread online, people started tweeting about the best foreign language film of 2021.