Everyone who tuned in for the 2017 Academy Awards was anticipating a night full of controversy and political commentary. This year’s Oscars will go down in history for other crazy reasons, but that doesn’t mean the dissent wasn’t there. Take Asghar Farhadi for example.
The Iranian director and screenwriter had previously won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his 2012 film A Separation and he was up for nomination again this year for The Salesman, but did not to attend last night’s celebration. Instead, Farhadi chose to boycott the ceremony as a means of protest against President Trump’s controversial travel ban.
Several hours prior to the Oscars, Farhadi addressed a group of protestors in London’s Trafalgar Square via satellite from Iran before a screening of the The Salesman. The city was publicly showing the film as a celebration of diversity and Farhadi’s message was a simple one.
“This solidarity is off to a great start,” he told the crowd of 10,000 gathered for the public screening organized by London mayor Sadiq Khan and filmmaker Mike Leigh. “I hope this movement will continue and spread, for it has within itself the power to stand up to fascism, be victorious in the face of extremism and say no to oppressive political powers everywhere.”
Fahardi’s The Salesman took out the top honors in the category of Best Foreign Film at the 89th Academy Awards. Accepting the award on his behalf was Iranian NASA employee Firouz Naderi, as well as the first Iranian in space, Anousheh Ansari, who read a statement prepared by the director. “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of six other nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.”
“Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions,” Ansari continued. “They create empathy between us and others. An empathy which we need today more than ever.” When asked backstage why Ansari had been chosen to deliver his message, Naderi replied “She’s an astronaut. I work for NASA. If you go away from the Earth and look back, you don’t see any of the borders.”