Oscars 2017: Iranian Winner Asghar Farhadi Blasts Trump Travel Ban

Posted 2017/02/27 3441 0

The most political moment of the Oscars came from a winner not in the room.


Farhadi won his second Oscar last night for The Salesman, about a couple whose relationship is thrown into disarray after an intruder surprises the wife in the shower. The story is influenced by Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. The win has put him on a shortlist of elite directors who have won an Oscar in the foreign film category more than once, including Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman.

Following President Donald Trump’s executive order blocking millions of people from several Muslim-majority countries, Farhadi, among others, decided not to attend the ceremony in solidarity with immigrants and refugees.

"I am sorry that I am not here tonight. My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and the other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US," he said.

Instead he sent two Iranian-Americans to pick up the award and read his message. They were Firouz Naderi, a former Nasa scientist who was the project manager for the Mars exploration and Anousheh Ansari, the first self-funded woman in the world to have gone into space. In 2006, Ansari grabbed global headlines after becoming the first Iranian in space and also the first woman tourist to visit the international space station.

“There are quite a number of prominent Iranian-Americans here that he could have asked,” Naderi told reporters moments after the two collected the award. “I think the reason that he chose the two of us … is if you go away from the Earth and look back at the Earth, you don’t see any of the borders or the lines, you just see the one whole beautiful Earth.”

At the Oscars, Ansari read Farhadi’s message to the audience’s applause. “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.

“Film-makers 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.”

Farhadi’s reference to “us” and the “enemies”, seen as a condemnation of Trump’s policies, also appeared to carry a message to politicians inside Iran. In January, when he announced the reasons behind his decision to boycott the Oscars, he targeted hardliners both in Iran and the US.

At the Oscars ceremony, Ansari wore a scarf around her body that depicted a map of her birthplace, the Iranian city of Mashhad, as seen from space. In remarks made to reporters after the speech, she said not coming to the Oscars was a difficult decision for Farhadi.

“It was very difficult, as you know this would be his second Oscar, and he would be the fourth foreign film-maker to receive two Oscars, it was a big deal for him. I think not coming he felt that it’s very important to make the statement that he made,” she said.

Naderi said: “When you want to stand on your principles, you have to make hard choices, and he just made one.”

The Salesman became a rallying cry for immigrant rights after Mr Trump's seven country travel ban.

The ban not only led to Farhadi announcing that he would not attend the awards in protest of the ban, targeted toward predominantly Muslim countries, including Iran, but also to an unprecedented show of solidarity between the six nominated directors in the foreign language category.

Two days before the Oscars, the six directors issued a joint statement decrying the climate of "fanaticism" in the United States. They said that no matter who won, the award would be dedicated to people working to foster "unity and understanding."