UPDATED: United Talent Agency has canceled its annual Academy Awards party and will instead donate $250,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union and the International Rescue Committee, and hold a rally “to express the creative community’s growing concern with anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States.”
UTA said its rally on Feb. 24, two days before the Oscars, is meant to combat the “potential chilling effect on the global exchange of ideas and freedom of expression.”
The action follows an outpouring of disdain from Hollywood for Trump and his ban on travel, which the president says is designed to increase the security of Americans, but that critics say unfairly targets innocent people, many of whom are attempting to flee persecution in the Middle East.
Trump’s travel ban hit close to UTA, according to a statement, because the firm represents Academy Award-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi. Though nominated for another Oscar this year in the best foreign-language film category for “The Salesman,” Farhadi is skipping the awards ceremony on Feb. 26 to protest the “unjust” Trump ban.
“This is a moment that demands our generosity, awareness, and restlessness,” UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer said in a letter to agency employees. “Our world is a better place for the free exchange of artists, ideas, and creative expression. If our nation ceases to be the place where artists the world over can come to express themselves freely, then we cease, in my opinion, to be America.”
When Farhadi received the news in Tehran about the agency’s action, he sent a text saying he is “honored and in tears,” according to UTA.
The agency will try to increase the donations to the ACLU and the immigration group by launching a CrowdRise fundraising campaign targeting the “broader creative community.”
Zimmer added: “When fear and division get the better of a society, artists are among the first to feel the impact — and to denounce the ill winds. With our words and our actions, the UTA family is speaking up for so many, including all artists and the vital global conversations they help lead.”