ROME – Two prominent Iranian Americans – engineer Anousheh Ansari, known as the first female space tourist, and Firouz Naderi, a former director of Solar Systems Exploration at NASA – will represent Iranian auteur Asghar Farhadi and his film “The Salesman” at the upcoming Oscars ceremony, Farhadi’s publicist said Friday.
Farhadi, whose film is nominated for the foreign-language film Oscar, had announced several weeks ago that he would boycott the Oscars ceremony to protest President Trump’s travel ban, even if exceptions were made to allow him entry to the U.S.
The film’s French producer, Alexandre Mallet-Guy, said in an email two days ago that he had decided not to attend the ceremony in solidarity with the director, and that nobody from the film would attend. He also said Farhadi would not be doing interviews if the film won.
The decision to ask two prominent Iranian Americans with no ties to the film world to represent him during Sunday’s ceremony suggests that Farhadi intends to maintain a close rapport with the U.S., where “The Salesman” is currently on release via Cohen Media Group. It’s also a way to underline that America is a nation of immigrants, including Iranians.
Farhadi’s publicist did not comment on the possibility that Ansari and Naderi would relay a statement from the director, or whether a Skype linkup with Farhadi in Iran was a conceivable option in the event of an Oscar victory.
Born in Iran, Ansari moved to the U.S. in 1984 as a teenager, five years after the Islamic Revolution. She made global headlines in 2006 when she became the first female private space explorer, as her website puts it, by boarding a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for an eight-day expedition, becoming the first Iranian and also the first Muslim woman in space.
At the insistence of NASA and Russian officials, she did not wear the Iranian flag officially at launch. She wore Iranian flag colors instead, and kept the Iranian flag on her official flight patch. Ansari and her husband said no political message was intended, despite rising tensions at the time between Washington and Tehran.
Naderi, who was also born in Iran and who left for the U.S. in 1964, spent more than 30 years in various positions at NASA, including director of Solar Systems Exploration and manager of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. He left NASA in 2016 and is currently a management consultant.