Submission of French-produced drama has angered Iranian conservatives.

Iran has selected Oscar-winning Asghar Farhadi’s French-language divorce drama The Past to represent it at the 2014 Oscars.

The move comes amid a thawing in relations between Iran and the West following the replacement of hardline Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president by the more moderate President Hassan Rouhani in June.

Iran stayed away from the 2013 Oscars amid the furore prompted by the anti-Islamic film The Innocence Of Muslims.

Having announced that Reza Mirkarimi’s A Cube Of Sugar would represent Iran at the 2013 awards, the Iranian government withdrew the title one day later saying it was boycotting the awards as a protest over the US-made film.

Farhadi’s A Separation won the coveted foreign language Oscar in 2012.

The Past, produced by Paris-based Memento Films, stars Iranian actor Ali Mosaffa as man who returns to Paris to finalise his divorce from his long-estranged wife, played by French actress Bérénice Bejo.

Bejo won the Palme d’Or for best actress in Cannes this year for her performance while Farhadi clinched the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.

“This selection is going to help our American distributor Sony Pictures Classics to better support the interest of the film in other categories, such as best director, best screenplay, best actress and best supporting actor,” said Memento Films chief Alexandre Mallet-Guy.

“The quality of the film, the prizes in Cannes, and Asghar and Bérénice’s fame on the back of A Separation and The Artist as well as the excellent reviews for The Past should take the film far,” he added.

The choice of The Past as Iran’s foreign language submission is reported to have angered Iranian conservatives on the grounds of its subject matter as well as the fact it was produced and shot in France.

According to French news agency AFP the local news service Fars, which is close to the conservatives, declared: “Unlike A Separation, there is nothing Iranian in the film apart from one of the characters — it could have been made in any country.”

“It would have made more sense to select a 100% Iranian film like Trapped (Darband), which would have presented a real image of Iran,” the report continued, referring to Parviz Shahbazi’s thriller about two young women caught-up in a miscarriage of justice.