Last night at the Oscars, Iranian Asghar Farhadi won the award for Best Foreign Language Film with The Salesman. He didn’t collect the statue however, as he’d boycotted the ceremony in protest at Trump’s travel ban. As a result, Iranian astronaut Anousheh Ansari picked it up on his behalf and read the following statement:
“It's a great honor to be receiving this valuable award for the second time. I would like to thank the members of the Academy, my crew in Iran, my producer, Amazon, and my fellow nominees.
I'm sorry I'm not with you tonight. My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of the other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US. Dividing the world into the “us" and "our enemies" categories creates fear. A deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression. Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between us and others. An empathy which we need today more than ever.”
But that wasn’t the only display of defiance against the Academy and the US in general. Prior to the awards, all the filmmakers up for the Best Foreign Language Film award released a joint statement attacking the “climate of fanaticism and nationalism” currently on display over on US soil. Here’s the full statement:
On behalf of all nominees, we would like to express our unanimous and emphatic disapproval of the climate of fanaticism and nationalism we see today in the US and in so many other countries, in parts of the population and, most unfortunately of all, among leading politicians.
The fear generated by dividing us into genders, colors, religions and sexualities as a means to justify violence destroys the things that we depend on – not only as artists but as humans: the diversity of cultures, the chance to be enriched by something seemingly “foreign” and the belief that human encounters can change us for the better. These divisive walls prevent people from experiencing something simple but fundamental: from discovering that we are all not so different.
So we’ve asked ourselves: What can cinema do? Although we don`t want to overestimate the power of movies, we do believe that no other medium can offer such deep insight into other people’s circumstances and transform feelings of unfamiliarity into curiosity, empathy and compassion – even for those we have been told are our enemies.
Regardless of who wins the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film on Sunday, we refuse to think in terms of borders. We believe there is no best country, best gender, best religion or best color. We want this award to stand as a symbol of the unity between nations and the freedom of the arts.
Human rights are not something you have to apply for. They simply exist – for everybody. For this reason, we dedicate this award to all the people, artists, journalists and activists who are working to foster unity and understanding, and who uphold freedom of expression and human dignity – values whose protection is now more important than ever. By dedicating the Oscar to them, we wish to express to them our deep respect and solidarity.
Strong words if we’ve ever heard them, and a pretty accurate indictment of current goings-on not just in the US of A in general, but also within the Academy. It’s well-protested how insular the Oscars community is, and maybe it’s high time they scrapped the “foreign” category and simply considered films from all over the world for the main award (and all the others, to boot).