Iranian director Asghar Farhadi just won his second Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for The Salesman — but as an act of protest against President Trump’s executive order banning people from seven majority-Muslim countries, and nearly all refugees, from entering the United States, he wasn’t at the ceremony to accept the award.
As Farhadi told the New York Times in a statement when Trump first signed the order in late January, he decided not to attend even if he could be granted an exception, saying it “now seems that the possibility of this presence is being accompanied by ifs and buts which are in no way acceptable to me even if exceptions were to be made for my trip.”
So instead of Farhadi giving a speech, Iranian-American businesswoman Anousheh Ansari — the first Iranian to go to space — read a statement from him:
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 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.
This statement falls right in line with one he released in conjunction with all of his fellow Best Foreign Language Film nominees, which they wrote to “express our unanimous and emphatic disapproval of the climate of fanaticism and nationalism we see today in the U.S. and in so many other countries, in parts of the population and, most unfortunately of all, among leading politicians.”
So whether the winner was Farhadi, Denmark’s Martin Zandvliet, Sweden’s Hannes Holm, Germany’s Maren Ade, or Australia’s Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, it’s a safe bet that this acceptance speech wasn’t about to shy away from the harder realities lurking outside the sparkling Hollywood theater.
Corrected to reflect that the statement said “inhumane,” not “inhuman.”