When writer-director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) set out to tell the story behind his new film A Hero, he had the idea of looking at the steep up-and-down trajectory of a man’s life caused by one supposedly small action. It received a five-minute standing ovation at its Cannes Film Festival premiere and won the Grand Prize.
Set in Iran, the story follows Rahim (Amir Jadidi), a man imprisoned for debt. On a two-day leave from jail, Rahim tries to make a deal with his debtor to pay back part of what he owes when his girlfriend finds a handbag filled with gold coins. But things do not go according to plan. After initially receiving much acclaim for returning the lost coins, Rahim’s life takes a serious downturn.
“When I started working on the script, which actually took a long time—I started two years ago—lots of ideas came to my mind,” Farhadi said during Deadline’s Contenders Film: London awards-season event, via a translator. “One of the main ideas that came to me was this idea of the character going up and then fall[ing] down like a freefall.”
“What’s very interesting to me about this story is when somebody does a good deed like that, we take [away] the allowance for them to make mistakes anymore,” Farhadi went on. “They can’t make any mistakes anymore, and they have to be always like that moment in their lives.”
Rehearsals ended up being 10 months long, partly due to Covid. But that lengthy period was really helpful, Farhadi said. “I wanted to rehearse with my actors, just like with my other movies for three or four months, but because of Covid, we had to rehearse for 10 months, and it really helped me working with the actors to find the story… It made the acting get close to real life as if it’s a documentary, and the lines don’t feel like somebody has written them.”
The director also pointed out that while the film obviously depicts Iran and its culture, he resists the idea of defining any culture through film. “No film really can claim that it shows the whole society of a country, especially a country like Iran that has a very long history,” he said. “And if you do a movie well, that movie can show a very small portion of that society. That’s why I don’t really like to judge any society based on one movie.”
Check out the panel video above.