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Asghar Farhadi’s Oscars Boycott Condemned the Muslim Ban and Sent a Message About Empathy

Director Asghar Farhadi won the Oscar last night for Best Foreign Language film, but was absent from the stage. The Iranian director made the announcement that he would not be attending last month after the President Trump issued his executive order banning entry from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The Muslim ban, which his administration continuously insists is a “travel ban” (it’s a Muslim ban) included his country, Iran. Farhadi, in his statement, asserted that even if exceptions were made for his trip, he would not attend to “express my condemnation of the unjust conditions forced upon some of my compatriots and the citizens of the other six counties.” Thus, the director was absent at the Academy Awards, and when his named was called for The Salesman, astronaut Anousheh Ansari and NASA scientist Firouz Naderi accepted it on their behalf and read a message from the director reasserting Farhadi’s reason for boycotting.

You can watch it above, where they read this letter:

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 inhuman 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.

His letter was met with great applause from the audience. If you weren’t aware, Ansari became the first Iranian in space in 2006. Backstage, Naderi talked about why he and Ansari represented Farhadi at the Oscars:

She’s an astronaut. She has gone to the space station. I work for NASA. I think the reason is that if you go away from the Earth and look back at the Earth you don’t see any of the borders, any of the lines. You just see one whole beautiful Earth.

The now two-time Oscar winning director wasn’t alone in speaking out against unjust laws. We saw plenty statements of protest at the Oscars, including a joint statement from all the foreign language film directors that sought 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.” The directors stated that regardless of who won, the award would be dedicated to “artist, journalists and activists who are working to foster unity and understanding, and who uphold freedom of expression and human dignity.”

What did you think about Farhadi’s message?

(via ABC News, Image via screencap)

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