Politics have long underscored awards shows. Back in 1973, Marlon Brando famously boycotted the Oscars, sending Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather to reject his award as a protest against the industry's stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans; at the 1979 ceremony, Jane Fonda took her stage time while accepting the Best Actress award to raise awareness for the millions of deaf Americans; and in 1993, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon paused their presentation to chastise the American government for barring Haitians who tested positive for HIV from entering the United States.
The last two decades have only heightened awards shows' places as a platform for political statements. In 2016, Leonardo DiCaprio used his Oscars acceptance speech to speak out about climate change, and as recently as January, Meryl Streep decried President Donald Trump for mocking a disabled reporter during her speech at the Golden Globes.
Now, with the 2017 Academy Awards just around the corner, IndieWire is reporting the six nominated directors in the Best Foreign Language Film category have collectively released a statement expressing their “emphatic disapproval of the climate of fanaticism and nationalism we see today in the U.S. and in so many other countries.” The filmmakers include Denmark’s Martin Zandvliet, Sweden’s Hannes Holm, Iran’s Asghar Farhadi, Germany’s Maren Ade and Australia’s Bentley Dean and Martin Butler. Together, they say that whoever wins the Academy Award, “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.”
The statement comes after Farhadi, who won an Oscar for A Separation in 2012 and was nominated this year for The Salesman, made headlines when he canceled plans to attend the Academy Awards. His annoucement followed the U.S. visa ban for visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, including his home country of Iran, that would have prevented him from attending. The ban has subsequently been blocked by federal judges, but Farhadi has remained steadfast.
For an entire category of nominees to band together is unprecedented, particularly because it comes only days before the ceremony. But their choice to present the statement plainly — rather than turning it into a live spectacle — speaks powerfully. Certainly, many movie fans believe politics should be left out of the Oscars since film is meant to be escapism. But, the biggest night in Hollywood has been political in the past and will likely continue to be so.
Read the entire statement below:
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 U.S. and in so many other countries, in parts of the population and, most unfortunately of all, among leading politicians.
The fear generated by dividing us into genders, colors, religions and sexualities as a means to justify violence destroys the things that we depend on — not only as artists but as humans: the diversity of cultures, the chance to be enriched by something seemingly “foreign” and the belief that human encounters can change us for the better. These divisive walls prevent people from experiencing something simple but fundamental: from discovering that we are all not so different.
So we’ve asked ourselves: What can cinema do? Although we don't want to overestimate the power of movies, we do believe that no other medium can offer such deep insight into other people’s circumstances and transform feelings of unfamiliarity into curiosity, empathy and compassion — even for those we have been told are our enemies.
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.
Human rights are not something you have to apply for. They simply exist — for everybody. For this reason, 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.
Martin Zandvliet – Land Of Mine (Denmark)
Hannes Holm – A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
Asghar Farhadi – The Salesman (Iran)
Maren Ade – Toni Erdmann (Germany)
Martin Butler, Bentley Dean – Tanna (Australia)
The 89th annual Academy Awards air Feb. 26 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.