Congratulations Asghar Farhadi for winning an Oscar and for boycotting the event

Published: March 1, 2017

Farhadi’s boycott and statement resonates of solidarity and unity with those who have been unfairly treated by the bigotry of Trump’s visa ban.

Forty four-year-old Iranian veteran director, Asghar Farhadi boycotted his visit to the Annual Academy Awards where he won the award for ‘Best Picture in a Foreign Language’. His film, The Salesman, won in this category and Farhadi chose two accomplished Iranian-Americans to accept the award on his behalf.  His film’s leading actress, Taraneh Alidoosti, also boycotted the ceremony in light of Trump’s recent visa ban.

Farhadi’s boycott comes at a time when the world stares at American borders in askance and confusion. A Syrian cameraman and rescue worker were unable to attend the ceremony because the Syrian government cancelled their passports. Trump’s visa ban, now jammed in federal court, would have probably made it impossible for them to enter as well. As President Trump’s visa ban creates chaos in the ugliest way possible– artists like Farhadi and their show of solidarity give the world hope. The Salesman was screened in Trafalgar Square where thousands watched it for free – along with this message by Farhadi that was delivered on the 89th Academy Awards:

“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.”

Farhadi’s boycott and statement resonates of solidarity and unity with those who have been unfairly treated by the bigotry of Trump’s visa ban. It also resonates of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) activism/protest against Trump’s policies about immigrants and their entry/living status in the US. The world, in times of discord and destruction, needs voices that remind us that our lives are more than just collateral for men in their high offices.

The US State Department’s Persian twitter account tweeted a congratulatory message to Farhadi but removed the tweet as soon as the boycott came forward. One cannot question the potency of such a boycott. The Oscars are one of the world’s most coveted awards; they are the Holy Grail for actors and filmmakers across the globe.

It remains to be seen whether this boycott will serve the purpose or derail the peace process between countries (vis a vis USA and Iran, which are famously antagonistic) and whether the artist community will benefit from Farhadi’s stance. That said, the impact, whether overwhelmingly positive or not, is definitely there and it does, for better or for worse, bring attention to the thousands upon thousands of individuals who are affected by it.

Farhadi’s boycott, in comparison to boycotts we see in our subcontinent, stands for something profoundly humanistic, whereas the boycotts in our part of the world are mostly reactionary or in celebration of war. Our cinemas ban Indian content even when Pakistani actors/actresses star in them. Indian media lobbies ban Pakistani actors and actresses even though these performers are loved across India.

Though one cannot expect President Trump (and almost half of America) to let go of this inherent bigotry and racist bias against innocent citizens who have worked peacefully and contributed to American society positively and happily – we can hope that with Farhadi’s strong message, it will keep propelling this crucial conversation about immigrants and racism against them. We can hope that those Americans who do not understand or see Muslims or immigrants as peaceful Americans will understand more, know more, see more and become more tolerant as they see that one of the world’s most prestigious awards is won by a man who their government did not seem worthy of awarding a visa.

Mahwash.Badar.

Mahwash Badar

The author is a clinical psychologist, a mum to two boys and permanently in a state of flux. She tweets @mahwashajaz_ (twitter.com/mahwashajaz_)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.