Iranian Director Won't Attend Oscars, Even Under Immigration Exception

Asghar Farhadi

No matter how one feels about the current political climate in the U.S., it's hard to deny the impact the situation is having far and wide. Celebrities and filmmakers are more outspoken than ever right now about political and social issues (both on social media and in their movies), as everyday citizens are taking to the streets in great numbers so they too can be heard. While everyone has a voice, some have the benefit of a more far-reaching platform to broadcast their opinions, and many are trying to use it to make a difference.

One of these people is Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, whose movie The Salesman is nominated for an Academy Award this year in the Best Foreign Language Film category. His previous film A Separation won the same prize in 2012, and he was again expected to attend this year's ceremony. However, due to the new U.S. policy barring entry visas for Iranians and six other Muslim countries, it looks like Farhadi won't be able to attend the Academy Awards after all. Now the internationally-respected director is saying, he wouldn't go to the Oscars next month even if he were to be granted an exception to the ban.

In a statement released to The New York Times, Farhadi says he had planned to attend the Oscars on Feb. 26 in Los Angeles and at the same time call attention to the "unjust" circumstances surrounding the new U.S. policy.

Here is Farhadi’s full statement:

I regret to announce via this statement that I have decided to not attend the Academy Awards Ceremony alongside my fellow members of the cinematic community.

Over the course of the past few days and despite the unjust circumstances which have risen for the immigrants and travelers of several countries to the United States, my decision had remained the same: to attend this ceremony and to express my opinions about these circumstances in the press surrounding the event. I neither had the intention to not attend nor did I want to boycott the event as a show of objection, for I know that many in the American film industry and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are opposed to the fanaticism and extremism which are today taking place more than ever. Just as I had stated to my distributor in the United States on the day the nominees were announced, that I would be attending this ceremony along with my cinematographer, I continued to believe that I would be present at this great cultural event.

However, 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. I would therefore like to convey via this statement what I would have expressed to the press were I to travel to the United States. Hard-liners, despite their nationalities, political arguments and wars, regard and understand the world in very much the same way. In order to understand the world, they have no choice but to regard it via an “us and them” mentality, which they use to create a fearful image of “them” and inflict fear in the people of their own countries.

This is not just limited to the United States; in my country hardliners are the same. For years on both sides of the ocean, groups of hardliners have tried to present to their people unrealistic and fearful images of various nations and cultures in order to turn their differences into disagreements, their disagreements into enmities and their enmities into fears. Instilling fear in the people is an important tool used to justify extremist and fanatic behavior by narrow-minded individuals.

However, I believe that the similarities among the human beings on this earth and its various lands, and among its cultures and its faiths, far outweigh their differences. I believe that the root cause of many of the hostilities among nations in the world today must be searched for in their reciprocal humiliation carried out in its past and no doubt the current humiliation of other nations are the seeds of tomorrow’s hostilities. To humiliate one nation with the pretext of guarding the security of another is not a new phenomenon in history and has always laid the groundwork for the creation of future divide and enmity. I hereby express my condemnation of the unjust conditions forced upon some of my compatriots and the citizens of the other six countries trying to legally enter the United States of America and hope that the current situation will not give rise to further divide between nations.

Asghar Farhadi, Iran

Filmmaker Asghar Farhadi on The Salesman set

It sounds like up until today, Farhadi had still planned on attending the Oscars ceremony, despite the new U.S. policy prohibiting him from attending. What he seems to take even greater offense to other than the ban is the conditions now being placed on his trip should he still desire to travel to the United States. Farhadi doesn't make the new stipulations known, but his reference to "ifs and buts" show that he would have been treated differently even if he were allowed to come and represent his country at the Academy Awards.

Even more poignant is Farhadi's message to "hard-liners" (politicians who won't compromise on a particular position or policy) everywhere that he would have made at the Oscars should he have gone. He tells The New York Times that in order to understand the world, politicians are taking an "us" vs "them" mentality and using it to scare people, then later using that fear to "justify extremist and fanatic behavior by narrow-minded individuals." Yet he believes that human beings actually share more similarities than differences, and the only way we can move forward is to unite as one and not use what's happened to further divide us. If we continue to retaliate back and forth, according to Farhadi, our problems will never end.

The 89th Annual Academy Awards ceremony is going to be telecast on Sunday, February 26th, 2017 on ABC, starting at 8:30 p.m. EST.

Source: The New York Times

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