Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian filmmaker of “The Salesman” who won an Oscar Sunday night for best foreign-language film, couldn’t make it to the ceremony, but still managed to make a political statement.
It was announced earlier this year that, because of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, Farhadi would boycott the Academy Awards, even if exceptions were made to allow him entry into the United States. Another prominent Iranian American, engineer Anousheh Ansari, accepted the prize for him and read a prepared statement on stage.
“I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight,” she read. “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.”
“Dividing the world into the us and our enemies categories creates fear,” she continued. “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.”
The controversy erupted last month, after Trump’s controversial executive order was signed. At the time, the Academy said in a statement that it was “extremely troubling” that Farhadi might be barred entry into the U.S.
Earlier in the evening, Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar. As he noted in the statement, Farhadi in 2012 won the best foreign-language film award for “A Separation.”
Speaking backstage afterward, Ansari said that the filmmaker stayed away because “he wanted to stand in solidarity with the rest of the people who have been the subject of the travel ban. She added that it was “a big message he was sending.”
Ansari is an engineer who was a “space tourist,” visiting the international space station. Also representing Farhadi at the awards was another space veteran, Firouz Naderi. He is the former director of solar systems exploration at NASA.
He said those who had traveled away from Earth better understood the concept of no borders. “If you go away from Earth, you just see on whole beautiful earth.” Naderi saluted Farhadi for his stand, saying: “When you want to stand on your principals you have to make hard choices. And he just made one.”