Asghar Farhadi and Trump's #MuslimBan
Taraneh Alidoosti won't be attending the Oscars, either.
Sure enough, the following day, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Trump signed an executive order banning all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days, while those from Syria have been singled out: Refugees from the most war-ravaged spot on the globe have been banned indefinitely. The order also bans citizens of seven countries, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Iraq, and Iran, from entering the United States for the next 90 days. The order has sparked spontaneous protests at major airports around the country, as I'm sure you've seen, but also chaos in the rooms we can't see, where men, women and children are being detained. The order has evidently come down with very few specific instructions as to how it's to be carried out.
Yesterday, Thomas Erdbrink and Rachel Donadio of the New York Times broke the news that Asghar Farhadi, director of The Salesman, has also decided not to attend the Academy Awards on February 26. They pass along a statement which has since been widely disseminated (read it in full here if you're counting your NYT clicks). Farhadi emphasizes that he will not make the trip "even if exceptions were to be made" specifically for him. He also draws parallels between hardliners in the U.S. and those in his own country: "Instilling fear in the people is an important tool used to justify extremist and fanatic behavior by narrow-minded individuals."
— The Critical Press (@criticalpress) January 28, 2017
Trump's #MuslimBan is keeping other guests from attending the Oscars as well. "White Helmets, directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, documents the efforts of the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, a group of volunteer rescue workers who rush in after attacks to try and save people amid the ruins," writes Mia Galuppo in the Hollywood Reporter. The documentary short's been nominated and the filmmakers had planned on inviting their subjects. Producer Joanna Natasegara: "We have always said that if we were to be nominated, we would bring Raed Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, who has spoken many times in D.C., and Khaled Khateeb, the young cinematographer who risked his life over and over again, as our guests. They’ve been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize—these people are the bravest humanitarians on the planet, and the idea that they could not be able to come with us and enjoy that success is just abhorrent."
As Liz Calvario reports for IndieWire, "comedian and actor David Cross is also calling for a 'full and complete boycott of the Oscars this year.'" Everybody. Stars, lackeys, everybody. "Put your money where your mouth is, Hollywood," tweets Cross. "Everyone who's tweeted, 'Take a stand against Trump!,' NOW IS YOUR CHANCE. Do it. It would drive Trump crazy & It's all anyone would talk about 4 decades…. None of this, 'I'll go but make a protest speech' bullshit either. That won't change a thing. This is the only way to be effective. Do it!!'"
David Poland's interview
Before wrapping, let's note that The Salesman is in theaters now and that James Kang is keeping his entry on it at Critics Round Up up to date with the latest reviews. Well before it opened, Farhadi made the rounds, giving interviews to:
- Dustin Chang (ScreenAnarchy). Farhadi discusses Ingmar Bergman's Shame (1968).
- Matthew Eng (Reverse Shot). The focus is on Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.
- Colleen Kelsey (Interview). "Modernity is something that comes from Western countries, and when the modernity comes to the Eastern countries, although they feel like they really need it, at the same time it shakes the very fundament of the culture."
- Danny Miller (Cinephiled). "Iranians and Americans really resemble each other."
- Mary Kaye Schilling (Vulture). "Ahmadinejad and Trump are not the same, but many of us felt a similar shock—this man couldn’t possibly be our president."
- Hillary Weston (Criterion). "The last time I was moved was the three weeks before the death of Abbas Kiarostami. We watched his latest short films that he made at his home, and they moved me. I really respected him, and we had a very good friendship. He’s a master."
- Esther Zuckerman (AV Club). "I think that theater is the closest medium to music."
And here in Keyframe, Amir Ganjavie spoke with Farhadi last year about influences on his work and, of course, politics: "I think that the awareness or the thinking of a society that can question and can reflect upon its own functioning and its own destiny wouldn’t allow a totalitarian regime to come and rule it." Meantime, Film International has posted the interview Ganjavie conducted with Taraneh Alidoosti last year in Cannes.
Updates, 1/31: Back in 2015, we ran Ehsan Khoshbakht's video interview with Tina Hassannia, author of Asghar Farhadi: Life and Cinema, and now's a fine time to revisit it. As Ehsan notes, the "interview follows the structure of the book. Hassannia identifies those factors that make Farhadi an important figure in contemporary cinema before providing a brief film-by-film survey of his career, encouraging those viewers who haven’t seen his pre-About Elly films to go and seek out the early treasures."
Adam Nayman at The Ringer: "Whether or not he wins his second Oscar (and in doing so joins heavy hitters like Vittorio De Sica, Akira Kurosawa, and Ingmar Bergman on the list of directors with multiple Academy Awards for Best Foreign-Language Film), Farhadi has a lot of eyes on him: following the death last year of Abbas Kiarostami and the ongoing, government-imposed ban on directing facing Jafar Panahi on charges of 'propaganda against the system,' Farhadi stands alone as Iran’s most internationally visible filmmaker. It’s a role that requires a certain gravitas, and his movies have it in spades…. Hassannia dubs her subject 'the new Iranian auteur,' suggesting that Farhadi’s importance lies in the way he’s been able to secure mainstream approval in his country without compromising his commitment to social realism and cultural critique."
Update, 2/6: "The symbolic and political import of Farhadi’s absence should not be overlooked," argues Tina Hassannia, introducing a new excerpt from her book at the TIFF Review. "Tens of millions of Americans watch the Oscars. Who knows how many would have their prejudices challenged had the filmmaker been given the chance to speak?"
For the full 2017 Oscars on Fandor experience, go here.