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The Muslim Ban Has Sullied Oscars 2017

By Kristy Puchko | Think Pieces | January 31, 2017 |

By Kristy Puchko | Think Pieces | January 31, 2017 |

The Academy Awards is coming up. Perhaps in light of all that’s going on in the political world, this event of glamor and back-patting seems irrelevant. But it shouldn’t. And the Muslim Ban has shown us why.

Shortly after Donald Trump’s hasty and hateful Executive Order was announced, the LA Times reported on the response from The Academy of Motion Pictures, which was disturbed that this EO would bar Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi from attending their 2017 celebration, where his latest film The Salesman is nominated.

A spokesperson for the Academy declared:

The Academy celebrates achievement in the art of filmmaking, which seeks to transcend borders and speak to audiences around the world, regardless of national, ethnic, or religious differences.

Prior to the ban’s wretched reveal, The Salesman star Taraneh Alidoosti announced she’d boycott the Oscars in protest to the ban’s racist agenda. And since the EO’s official release, Farhadi has followed suit. He issued a statement to the New York Times regarding this decision. It began by explaining that the lauded filmmaker planned to use the Oscar press access as a means to share his thoughts on the proposed ban with the world. “However,” he writes, “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.” And so, he won’t wait for Oscar night to share his message.

Farhadi wrote:

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….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.

This statement echoes the acceptance speech Farhadi gave when he won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2012 for his breathtaking drama A Separation. It was the first film from Iran to ever earn this honor. You can watch it, and should at the link. (It won’t embed.) But here’s the words that won rapturous applause.

At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy. They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or filmmaker, but because at the time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country Iran is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics. I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, a people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment.

Farhadi is a singular filmmaker. His movies make detective stories out of daily life by leaving the viewer out of crucial moments, forcing them to consider the character’s perspectives without an omniscient and safer POV. There’s a humanity in them that is absorbing and awe-striking. Whether or not you have any familiarity of the everyday of Iran, you will be pulled in and riveted. His films are specific in details, but universal in their emotional impact. The Oscars aspire to celebrate cinema that has this level of skill, empathy, and elegance. And this Academy Awards ceremony will be lesser for not having him there.

Seek out Farhadi’s films. About Elly is on Netflix. The Past and my personal favorite A Separation are on Amazon Prime.

Kristy Puchko interviewed Farhadi once, and was in awe of his brilliance and humanity.

Kristy Puchko is the film editor of Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.

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