Jenkins: They were like, “Look. We’re gonna put it in theaters, and we’re gonna find a way to keep it there.” Now, look, at that point, none of us were thinking, “Hey, we’re gonna win Best Picture!” But we wanted to give the movie the chance to have as much of a life as we possibly could. And with the opening weekend, with the numbers that we did, it became very clear that, yes, this is a viable strategy, to keep this very small, gay, art-house hood-ass film—like, yeah, we’re just gonna keep it in theaters. They had faith that people would continue to show up. And they did.
When “A Separation” capped its global success by becoming the first Iranian film to win an Oscar, Farhadi effectively became an international director, a fact he implicitly acknowledged by making his next film, “ The Past ,” in France. With “The Salesman,” he returns not only to Iran but to some deeply Iranian themes, examining an atavistic tendency even in the most modern-seeming men and pitting that against the compassionate humanism at the core of both secular and religious thought in Iran. At the same time, the film finds Farhadi now inhabiting a strangely transnational place in cinema, one where bridging Gholem-Hossein Sa’edi and Arthur Miller is more a playful, aspirational gesture than a purposeful strategy. As impressive as the dramatic facility of “The Salesman” is, it lacks any real urgency or sense of daring, as if a night in the theater (or cinema) was not supposed to signify outside its walls.