The Culture First Look

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi to skip Oscars over travel ban

Farhadi, whose film 'The Salesman,' is nominated for an Oscar, will skip next month's ceremony following President Trump's plan to suspend visas for people from Iran and six other predominantly Muslim countries. 

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi poses for a photo during the premiere of his film 'The Salesman' in Paris in October 2016.
Michel Euler/AP/File | Caption

A few faces will be conspicuously absent from the Academy Awards ceremony next month, thanks to a controversial executive order temporarily banning citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose film "The Salesman" has a shot at winning the best foreign language Oscar, said on Sunday that he will not attend the awards ceremony in Los Angeles next month, even if he is allowed to. Days earlier, Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who stars in "The Salesman," tweeted a similar vow, describing the new policy as "racist." 

"[I]t 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," said Mr. Farhadi, who became the first Iranian to win an Oscar with his 2011 film "A Separation," as reported by The Associated Press. 

The response to the executive order signed by President Trump last week, which, citing terrorism concerns, temporarily bars citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen, has been swift and widespread, as people all over the world share personal stories of how the ban has affected them or people they know. Amid protests in airports and cities around the US, high-profile Hollywood figures have also begun to speak out against the order that critics see as discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Farhadi and others behind "The Salesman" are not the only Oscar nominees affected by the ban: the Syrian humanitarian workers featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary short "The White Helmets" also cannot attend the ceremony. On Saturday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released a statement criticizing the ban. 

"As supporters of filmmakers – and the human rights of all people – around the globe, we find it extremely troubling that Asghar Farhadi, the director of the Oscar-winning film from Iran 'A Separation,' along with the cast and crew of this year's Oscar-nominated film 'The Salesman,' could be barred from entering the country because of their religion or country of origin," the statement read.

The executive order comes during what observers have called a "watershed" year for diversity in Oscars nominations, as Jessica Mendoza reported for The Christian Science Monitor last week: 

Tuesday dawned in Hollywood with diversity at center stage, as this year’s Oscar nominations recognized a range of stories and faces that for two years had been conspicuously absent. People of color punctuated every category from Best Picture to cinematography, reflecting what some see as a response to the online outcry of #OscarsSoWhite...

This year’s nominees also speak to what some critics hope is a broader, more long-term effort to close the gap between Hollywood’s vision of itself as a bastion of multiculturalism, and the lack of diversity that has long hounded the industry. The seven minority actors nominated tie the record set in 2007. But some culture watchers say that the behind-the-scenes nominations, such as Kimberly Steward's for producing "Manchester by the Sea," may be even more important – both for long-term diversity and increasing the variety of stories told.

Against a backdrop of nationwide racial unrest and divisive political rhetoric, prominent figures like Oscar winner Meryl Streep have used awards shows as opportunities to express the industry’s commitment to diverse communities and their stories. But such pronouncements have also served to highlight a less ideal reality: that people of color, women, and other minority groups are still underrepresented in Hollywood.  

At Sunday night's Screen Actors Guild Awards, a number of actors followed Ms. Streep's example by speaking out against Donald Trump in their acceptance speeches, with many referencing the immigration ban specifically.

"Because I love this country, I am horrified by its blemishes," said actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus while accepting an honor for her television show "Veep," citing her background as the daughter of an immigrant who fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France. "And this immigrant ban is a blemish and it is un-American."

While accepting the award for best ensemble in a comedy series for the third year in a row, the cast of the Netflix series "Orange is the New Black" spoke of the importance of Hollywood promoting unity among people of different backgrounds. 

"We stand up here representing a diverse group of people, representing generations of families who have sought a better life here from places like Nigeria, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Ireland," said star Taylor Schilling. ''And we know that it's going to be up to us and all you, probably, to keep telling stories that show what unites us is stronger than the forces that divide us."

This report contains material from the Associated Press.