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June 2017, No. 84


Hall of Fame

 

Farhadi Blasts Trump’s Travel Ban


Farhadi won his second Oscar (Feb. 26) for The Salesman, about a couple whose relationship is thrown into disarray after an intruder surprises the wife in the shower.


Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s choice of replacement speakers at the Oscars has won praise from Iranians and has been seen as adding an extra layer of subtlety to his message in absentia.

Protest vote against Donald Trump’s travel ban suspected to be partly behind Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s surprise victory

Farhadi won his second Oscar (Feb. 26) 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.

Farhadi boycotted the ceremony in Los Angeles “out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations” affected by Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries, which he said “have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US”.

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.”

Farhadi’s win has lifted spirits in Iran. Millions woke up to the good news, which came too late to make it to front pages in Tehran. The Iranian foreign minister reacted to the news in the early hours, tweeting: “Proud of cast & crew of “The Salesman” for Oscar & stance against #MuslimBan. Iranians have represented culture & civilization for millennia.”

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.

“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.”

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.

“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,” he said in a statement in the New York Times. “Instilling fear in the people is an important tool used to justify extremist and fanatic behavior by narrow-minded individuals.”

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.”

On Feb. 25, thousands of Iranians turned up at Trafalgar Square in London to watch The Salesman in a special open-air screening organized by the London mayor, Sadiq Khan.

Afsaneh Gitiforooz, an Iranian psychologist who watched the screening, told the Guardian: “Today the art is winning. It’s winning because it is sending a message bigger than any statement or signature that someone like Trump can sign.”

Abbas Faiz, an Iranian independent human rights consultant, said the London gathering sent a “beautiful message”. “It shows the power of art, that it’s so potent. So many people in this world would not accept the negative and poisonous propaganda that is coming out from the new administration from the United States,” he said.

 

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  June 2017
No. 84