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Just as Donald Trump was reading off cue cards and shooting for laughs during his Saturday Night Live hosting gig on the East Coast, his controversial remarks regarding Mexico and its people inspired a very serious speech from Alejandro González Iñárritu on the West Coast.
At LACMA’s fifth annual Art + Film Gala — a Gucci-sponsored A-list affair that brings together the film and art worlds in one gathering to raise funds for the museum and its film-related programming and exhibitions — the Oscar-winning Birdman filmmaker was one of the guests of honor, along with iconic L.A. artist James Turrell.
And while Iñárritu never singled out Trump by name, it was clear who he was talking about. “Unfortunately, there are currently people proposing we build walls, instead of bridges. I must confess that I debated with myself, if I should bring up this uncomfortable subject tonight. But in light of the constant and relentless xenophobic comments that have been expressed recently against my Mexican fellows, it is inevitable,” he said.
The filmmaker charged that Trump’s comments would be considered “unacceptable” if they were aimed at another minority group. “These sentiments have been widely spread by the media without shame, embraced and cheered by leaders and communities around the US. The foundation of all this is so outrageous that it can easily be minimized as an SNL sketch, a mere entertainment, a joke,” he said, as a nod to Trump’s SNL outing. “But the words that have been expressed are not a joke. Words have real power; and similar words in the past have both created and triggered enormous suffering for millions of human beings, especially throughout the last century.”
He went on to say that if the rhetoric continues, immigrants around the world will be in danger. Iñárritu’s comments were heard by a capacity crowd full of A-list stars and industry power players. Along with actors like Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, Jared Leto and Salma Hayek were Disney’s Bob Iger, Paramount’s Brad Grey, Fox’s Jim Gianopulos, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, producer Brian Grazer, CAA’s Richard Lovett, Bob Daly, Terry Semel, Mike Medavoy, Bob Shaye, Steve Bing, Megan Ellison, Steve Tisch and Birdman producer John Lesher, among many others.
The full transcript of Iñárritu’s speech can be found below:
“I cannot express how humbled, honored, and thankful I am to receive this recognition tonight from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, along with the master, the poet of light, Mr. James Turrell. We, as filmmakers, use light to reveal our stories. But for Mr. Turrell, light is the revelation itself, and that is sublime.
For the last 14 years, I have been living in Los Angeles, along with more than 2 million Mexicans, and I have witnessed how the LACMA museum, since Michael Govan and his team arrived, has changed the cultural dynamics of this city by making art accessible, fun and exciting to a diverse society that, before LACMA existed the way it exists today, lacked a point of reunion where every race, age or social class could have and share a space and center.
I was born and raised in what I consider to be the Rome of North America, where a millenary civilization is buried under the largest city in the world, in one of the most complex and exciting anthropological experiments ever created: Mexico City.
As a Mexican, I consider the honor I am receiving tonight a recognition to the whole Mexican community for their eminent hard work and vibrant cultural contributions made for years and years to the city of Los Angeles and the United States.
I have been extremely fortunate to shoot films around the world; sharing human experiences with different kinds of people, regardless of where we are from.
We are the only creatures on planet Earth that want to see ourselves in the mirror. Because we know we are the same, but we are different, we need to share. We need to see ourselves projected in other members of our species to, in turn, understand ourselves. Cinema, is that mirror. It is a bridge between the others and us.
Unfortunately, there are currently people proposing we build walls, instead of bridges. I must confess that I debated with myself, if I should bring up this uncomfortable subject tonight. But in light of the constant and relentless xenophobic comments that have been expressed recently against my Mexican fellows, it is inevitable.
These comments would be unacceptable if they were targeted against another minority, nevertheless, these millions of people do not have a voice or any rights – even though they have lived here all of their lives.
These sentiments have been widely spread by the media without shame, embraced and cheered by leaders and communities around the US. The foundation of all this is so outrageous that it can easily be minimized as an SNL sketch, a mere entertainment, a joke.
But the words that have been expressed are not a joke. Words have real power; and similar words in the past have both created and triggered enormous suffering for millions of human beings, especially throughout the last century.
If we continue to allow these words to water seeds of hate, and spread inferior thoughts and unwholesome emotions around the world to every human being, not only will millions of Mexicans and Latin American immigrants be in danger, but immigrants around the world now suffering, will share the same dangerous fate.
There is no human being who, as a result of desiring to build a better life, should be named or declared Illegal, and be dispossessed or considered disposable.
I would rather propose to call these people Undocumented Dreamers, as were most of the people who founded this country. By naming them that, we can instead start a real and human conversation for a solution, with the most precious, forgotten, and distinguished emotion a human being can have: Compassion.
As a filmmaker, as a Mexican, but most importantly, as a human being, I feel extremely thankful that LACMA is an inclusive community that reaches out and invites people in to celebrate cinema as an art form.
And when I say art, I mean it as what art truly is. A human expression, a singular point of view, as valuable as any other one, of an ordinary human being.
It is a privilege to share this with my family, and my best friends and colleagues.
Thank you very much for this honor.”
(A full transcript of Iñárritu’s speech in Spanish can be found here.)
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