TEHRAN, (IRANART)- The directors of all five films nominated for the foreign-language Oscar issued a joint statement on Friday denouncing the rise of fanaticism and nationalism in the US and beyond, and criticized the stigmatization based on race, religion and gender, which they said bred fear and violence.
“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 statement began.
It comes two days before the Academy Awards, slated for Sunday, February 26, and amid tense anticipation that President Donald Trump will soon issue a revised executive order on the travel ban.
Last month, Trump ordered a halt to visas for travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, but the order was blocked in court. At the time, renowned Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, whose drama ‘The Salesman’ is Iran’s nominee for foreign language films at the Oscars, announced that he would not attend the award ceremony, in protest against the ban, and did not change his stance even after it was lifted.
“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,” it said.
The directors concluded by saying, “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”.
The statement was signed by Farhadi along with Martin Zandvliet (director of ‘Land of Mine’, Denmark’s nominee), Hannes Holm (‘A Man Called Ove’, Sweden), Maren Ade (‘Toni Erdmann’, Germany) and Martin Butler and Bentley Dean (‘Tanna’, Australia).
Although Farhadi will not attend the Oscars on Sunday, he has introduced his representatives at the ceremony.
Two prominent Iranian Americans - engineer Anousheh Ansari, known as the first female space tourist, and Firouz Naderi, a former director of Solar Systems Exploration at NASA - will represent Farhadi and his film ‘The Salesman’, Variety reported.
The film’s French producer, Alexandre Mallet-Guy, said in an email two days ago that he had decided not to attend the ceremony in solidarity with the director, and that nobody from the film would attend.
Born in Iran, Ansari, 50, moved to the US in 1984 as a teenager. She made global headlines in 2006 when she became the first female private space explorer by boarding a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for an eight-day expedition, becoming the first Iranian and also the first Muslim woman in space.
“I’m honored 2 be there for him,” she twitted after the announcement was made.
Naderi, 70, who was also born in Iran and left for the US in 1964, spent more than 30 years in various positions at NASA, including director of Solar Systems Exploration and manager of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. He left NASA in 2016 and is currently a management consultant.
Also in a tweet, Naderi wrote, “Happy to represent him at the Oscars. He has asked Anousheh Ansari and me to attend in his place and talk to the press which we are delighted to do. Should the film win, one of us will accept the award on his behalf. My hat is off to him for standing by his principles”.
The decision to ask two outstanding Iranian Americans with no ties to the film world to represent him during the ceremony seems to be a clever act by Farhadi to show that America is a nation of immigrants, including Iranians.
Instead of going to the Oscars, Farhadi will attend a screening of his film in London. The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has arranged for a free outdoor screening of ‘The Salesman’ in Trafalgar Square during the afternoon of Sunday, February 26.
Amnesty International UK Priority Campaigns Manager Laura Trevelyan said: “This screening is an important gesture of defiance and exactly the right response to President Trump’s discriminatory and unlawful travel ban”.
“It seems all too likely that the Trump administration is going to put this incredibly divisive ban back in place and we need to see the US Senate passing legislation to make it unlawful once and for all,” Amnesty website quoted her as saying.
‘United Voices’ Rally
United Talent Agency (UTA), which traditionally holds an annual pre-Academy Awards party, instead hosted a rally titled ‘United Voices’ at its Beverly Hills headquarters on Friday to express concern over the “anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States”.
UTA executives said such sentiment has a “potential chilling effect on the global exchange of ideas and freedom of expression”.
A special speaker at the event was Farhadi who in a video message played during the rally, saluted the crowd, which grew to an estimated 2000, and said, “I am grateful to my fellow filmmakers and the UTA family who have reacted responsibly to discrimination and injustice. It is comforting to know that at a time when some politicians are trying to promote hate by creating divisions between cultures, religions and nationalities, the cinema community has joined the people in a commendable show of unity to announce its opposition.”
Speaking from Tehran, he added, “I hope this unity will continue and spread to fight other injustices. Filmmakers can break stereotypes around the world by turning their cameras to capture shared human qualities.”
Source: Financial Tribune