Academy Rips Trump's "Extremely Troubling" Travel Ban That May Keep Iran Filmmaker From Oscars

Asghar Farhadi

Update: Asghar Farhadi, whose film 'The Salesman' is nominated for an Oscar in the best foreign-language category, announced that he will not attend the Academy Awards in the wake of Trump's ban.

Reacting to reports that Iranian director Asghar Farhadi could be prevented from attending the 89th Academy Awards, where his film The Salesman is nominated as best foreign-language film, the Motion Picture Academy said Saturday that the situation is "extremely troubling."

An Academy spokesperson released the following statement: "The Academy celebrates achievement in the art of filmmaking, which seeks to transcend borders and speak to audiences around the world, regardless of national, ethnic or religious differences. 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 Salesman, which concerns a couple, both actors, whose relationship is in trouble, earned Shahab Hosseini best actor honors at the Cannes Film Festival, where Farhadi also won the best screenplay prize.

The film opened at the specialty box office in New York and Los Angeles, scoring the top location average of the weekend for any film, bowing to $71,071 from three theaters for a location average of $23,690.

Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who stars in The Salesman, recently stated via social media that she would not be attending the Oscars in protest of President Donald Trump's immigration and travel ban. "Trump's visa ban for Iranians is racist. Whether this will include a cultural event or not, I won't attend the #AcademyAwards 2017 in protest," she tweeted Thursday.

Trump signed an executive order on Friday (Holocaust Remembrance Day), suspending refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days. Syrian refugees are suspended indefinitely and seven predominantly Muslim countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen) are suspended for 90 days.

Trump said he is implementing "new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America."

Jan. 29, 9 a.m.: In an act of protest, Farhadi said he will not be attending the Oscars even if he were granted exception to the visa ban on those from Iran and other predominantly Muslim countries. 

In a statement to The New York Times, the filmmaker called Trump's decision "unjust" and said the executive order presented “ifs and buts which are in no way acceptable to me even if exceptions were to be made for my trip."

Farhadi's full statement follows:

I regret to announce via this statement that I have decided to not attend the Academy Awards Ceremony alongside my fellow members of the cinematic community.

Over the course of the past few days and despite the unjust circumstances which have risen for the immigrants and travelers of several countries to the United States, my decision had remained the same: to attend this ceremony and to express my opinions about these circumstances in the press surrounding the event. I neither had the intention to not attend nor did I want to boycott the event as a show of objection, for I know that many in the American film industry and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are opposed to the fanaticism and extremism which are today taking place more than ever. Just as I had stated to my distributor in the United States on the day the nominees were announced, that I would be attending this ceremony along with my cinematographer, I continued to believe that I would be present at this great cultural event.

However, it 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. I would therefore like to convey via this statement what I would have expressed to the press were I to travel to the United States. Hard-liners, despite their nationalities, political arguments and wars, regard and understand the world in very much the same way. In order to understand the world, they have no choice but to regard it via an “us and them” mentality, which they use to create a fearful image of “them” and inflict fear in the people of their own countries.

This is not just limited to the United States; in my country hard-liners are the same. For years on both sides of the ocean, groups of hard-liners have tried to present to their people unrealistic and fearful images of various nations and cultures in order to turn their differences into disagreements, their disagreements into enmities and their enmities into fears. Instilling fear in the people is an important tool used to justify extremist and fanatic behavior by narrow-minded individuals.

However, I believe that the similarities among the human beings on this earth and its various lands, and among its cultures and its faiths, far outweigh their differences. I believe that the root cause of many of the hostilities among nations in the world today must be searched for in their reciprocal humiliation carried out in its past and no doubt the current humiliation of other nations are the seeds of tomorrow’s hostilities. To humiliate one nation with the pretext of guarding the security of another is not a new phenomenon in history and has always laid the groundwork for the creation of future divide and enmity. I hereby express my condemnation of the unjust conditions forced upon some of my compatriots and the citizens of the other six countries trying to legally enter the United States of America and hope that the current situation will not give rise to further divide between nations.

Asghar Farhadi, Iran

Jan. 29, 12 p.m.: Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE), and Howard A. Rodman, president of the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW), released a joint statement Sunday afternoon announcing their solidarity with Farhadi:

"It is both unconstitutional and deeply wrong to say that you cannot enter our country because of where you were born or what religion you were born into. The Writers Guilds of America, East and West condemn Donald Trump’s profoundly un-American ‘Muslim ban,’ and applaud the Federal Court’s decision to grant a stay that will keep those being held at American airports from being forcibly returned to their countries. Human rights — including the freedoms of speech and religion — are essential to all Americans and to all who come here to build better lives.

We are especially troubled by reports that Asghar Farhadi, director of The Salesman, which won Best Screenplay at Cannes and is now nominated for an Oscar, may together with his cast and crew be prevented from entering our country. From its early days, the entertainment industry has been built by the imagination of immigrants. Our guilds are unions of storytellers who have always welcomed those from other nations, and of varying beliefs, who wish to share their creativity with America. We are grateful to them, we stand with them, we will fight for them.” 

Jan. 30, 8:35 a.m.: Amazon Studios head Roy Price took to Twitter Monday morning to say the streamer also stands behind Farhadi's decision. "Asghar Farhadi, @AmazonStudios understands and supports your decision not to attend the Oscars," he tweeted.

Jan. 31, 9 a.m.: The AFI released a statement on Tuesday, saying they look forward to welcoming Farhadi back in the fall:

"Asghar Farhadi has served as Artist-in-Residence for the past two years at the AFI Conservatory, and his classes had a profound impact upon the 250 young men and women who attend AFI from around the world.

The AFI Conservatory stands with artists and filmmakers who find the power of creation through freedom of expression and freedom of movement. We believe any form of censorship — including the restriction of travel — to be against all values we cherish as a community of storytellers.

We look forward to welcoming Mr. Farhadi back to AFI in the fall." 

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