Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-nominated Iranian drama “The Salesman” will receive a free open-air premiere in London on Feb. 26, the night of the Oscars ceremony. London mayor Sadiq Khan will host the screening as part of his ‘London is open’ campaign, celebrating the British capital’s diversity.
The screening will see London’s iconic Trafalgar Square transformed into a public cinema for an audience of up to 10,000 people just hours before the start of the Academy Awards in Los Angeles, where “The Salesman” is nominated for best foreign language film.
“Screening ‘The Salesman’ in Trafalgar Square has a great symbolic value for me,” said Farhadi. “The gathering of the audience around ‘The Salesman’ in this famous London square is a symbol of unity against the division and separation of people. I welcome and appreciate this invaluable show of solidarity.”
Farhadi announced last month that he would not attend the Oscars in protest against Donald Trump’s travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries including Iran, even if he were offered an exemption. His 2011 film “A Separation” won the Oscar for best foreign language film.
“Londoners have always prided themselves on their openness to the world, and what better way to do that than to come together to watch this powerful film in one of the world’s most famous public spaces,” said Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor. “I’m delighted to welcome people from across the capital and beyond to share in this celebration of London as an international hub of creativity and as a beacon of diversity.”
Khan will introduce the screening, with Farhadi providing a video introduction. The event will also feature a program of readings and speeches given by actors and directors including Mike Leigh. Leigh, who has known Farhadi since they served together on the jury of the 2012 Berlin Film Festival, called the Iranian director “one of the world’s greatest filmmakers.”
“For those of us who make movies about real life, real people and real issues, he is the master – a true inspiration to all of us,” said Leigh. “‘The Salesman’ is compelling, moving and entertaining, and I urge everybody in our capital to come and enjoy it in Trafalgar Square. We must show solidarity with Asghar and his principles, and against divisiveness and hate.”
The London event is being organized by Khan alongside model and actress Lily Cole, producer Kate Wilson and filmmaker Mark Donne and is supported by Curzon Artificial Eye and Amazon Studios. It will begin at 4 p.m. local time (8 a.m. PST) with the film on screen half an hour later. There will also be paid preview screenings of the film at five London cinemas later the same night.
“The Salesman” stars Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti in the story of a couple, rehearsing Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” whose relationship begins to fall apart after they rent an apartment from a fellow performer without knowing it was previously inhabited by a prostitute. Farhadi won the best screenplay award at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, where the film had its world premiere, with Hosseini taking the festival’s best actor prize. “The Salesman” will be released in the U.K. by Curzon Artificial Eye on March 17.