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This story was created in paid partnership with Amazon Studios
Somewhere in a city, a man is going through a rough patch. He owes a significant amount of money, with no visible resources to cover his debt. To make matters even worse, his family is involved — his ex-brother-in-law is his creditor.
What will he do?
And more importantly — in similar circumstances, what would you do?
“The concept for this story was in my head as a theater student,” says Asghar Farhadi, master filmmaker and one of the few directors honored with two Oscars for best international film — for A Separation in 2011, and The Salesman in 2016. He also received the Cannes Film Festival Award of best screenplay for The Salesman. “Later on, I kept seeing very similar stories in the news, and it really interested me.”
Shortlisted for the Oscars, A Hero — the story in Farhadi’s head — already has one major accolade: the Grand Prix from the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.
The journey to A Hero included extensive research into news clippings and a collection of notes, fragments of narratives and possible themes. As soon as Farhadi went back to his hometown of Tehran, Iran, in 2018, after the filming of Everybody Knows in Spain, he began writing what would become A Hero. It took shape as a script after several months, as Farhadi worked alone in an intense, meditative process.
With the script came the backstories of his characters, their personalities, their past — and with them, the core of Farhadi’s creative process: the actors. “The rehearsal time helps me as a director a lot,” Farhadi says. “I start to understand the actors and I find out their fortes. During the filming, there is not that much time to make mistakes and correct them. During rehearsal, I don’t work on the script. We make the world before the movie starts, and we rehearse that.”
Working with his actors, Farhadi completed the journey of his characters, putting two men at the center of a vortex that, step by step, will end up devouring all around them. “In this film [A Hero], we have a character called Rahim and a character called Bahram, and the main conflict of the film is between these two characters,” says Farhadi. “I always wanted the fight between these two people to feel like they didn’t want to get into a fight, but they had to, they have no other choice. So we started to make a backstory for them, and we rehearsed it.”
Shot in the city of Shiraz — to avoid the daily turmoil of Tehran, the country’s capital — A Hero took its final shape. It all starts with Rahim, the desperate debtor, and his new girlfriend, Farkhondeh (Sahar Goldust), and their certain solution to the problem — a gesture of goodwill involving a handful of coins and some posters with very precise phone numbers on carefully selected streets. The goal of the duo is to get Rahim out of the terrible financial crisis he’s been facing. Since the golden coins are not enough to resolve the drama, Rahim returns them to their legitimate owner. That’s when everything changes, and he becomes a star in his community.
Farhadi’s precise and profound vision takes this apparently simple challenge and turns it into a carefully layered social drama. Moving his characters in a continuous spiral, things change constantly. Nothing stays the same, and everything comes to light, step by step. Rahim, the poor debtor, becomes a hero, but not for long. Is he a simple man in a hard spot? Or a cold-blooded fraudster? The exasperated creditor and ex-brother-in-law — is he a greedy man or a wise man who can see through Rahim’s façade? And how about the chorus of family, neighbors and social media users weighing in on Rahim’s life? Support? Admiration? Cancellation?
“In Iran, especially with the new generation, using this technology is just part of their lives,” Farhadi says. “They spend a lot of time in the day with social media. It seems to me that the characteristics and traits that social media has outside Iran are the same inside Iran. I didn’t write this script to talk about social media or criticize social media. But the story is about this common guy who became very famous in the region. Of course, these days social media plays a huge role in these kinds of situations.”
The power of A Hero is its humanity. Its story, characters and challenges could be happening right now, anywhere in the world. That’s what great cinema does. When he read the script, Farhadi’s longtime producer and friend Alexandre Mallet-Guy had an immediate reaction: “Oh, this movie can actually connect with people outside Iran.”
He’s right — “universal and timeless,” A Hero touches issues across cultures, languages and borders.
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