Asghar Farhadi’s film was nominated alongside Land of Mine (Denmark – Martin Pieter Zandvliet), A Man Called Ove (Sweden – Hannes Holm), Tanna (Australia – Bentley Dean, Martin Butler) and Toni Erdmann (Germany – Maren Ade).
Anousheh Ansari accepted the award on behalf of Farhadi, reading from a statement that he sent for the awards show: “I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight. My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.”
“Dividing the world into the ‘us and our enemies’ categories creates fear. A deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression,” she read. “Filmmakers can turn their cameras to create and capture human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between us and others. An empathy that we need today more than ever.”
Backstage, Ansari explained Farhadi’s stance on boycotting the ceremony. “I think he wanted to stand in solidarity with the rest of the people who have been subject of the travel ban and are not able to see their friends and family members.”
This Oscar win is an iconic and controversial one for Iran and the country’s tumultuous political relationship with the U.S. After signing a nuclear deal as one of President Obama’s last achievements as commander-in-chief, the Trump administration has taken steps back in its relationship with the country with the recent travel ban, which initially blocked Iranian nationals, even those with U.S. visas and green cards, from entering America, causing an outpour of protests at airports around the country.
Filmmaker Farhadi opted not to attend the Oscars this year in response to President Trump’s policy on immigration. In a statement, he said, “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.”
The Salesman won the best actor award for Shahab Hosseini at the Cannes Film Festival, where Farhadi also won the best screenplay honor.
Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who stars in the film, said on social media that she did not plan on attending the Oscars due to the ban as well.
The Salesman is based on the story of one Iranian couple who moonlight as actors in the evenings. After having to move out of their home due to a collapsed neighboring construction site, they find safety at a home that was previously occupied by a woman with a controversial life as a prostitute.
This is the third Academy Award nomination for Iran and second win. Hungary’s Son of Saul took home the award at last year’s awards ceremony.
A crowd of thousands watched a screening of The Salesman in London on Sunday in honor of the film’s Oscar nomination.
Thousands watched The Salesman in London today. Congratulations Asghar Farhadi. pic.twitter.com/1tyuyfafPZ
— Lexi Alexander (@Lexialex) February 27, 2017
At the UTA’s “United Voices” rally on Friday afternoon, the director spoke to the crowd via a video message from Tehran: “It is comforting to know that at a time when some politicians are trying to promote hate by creating divisions between cultures, religions and nationalities, the cinema community has joined the people in a common show of unity to show its opposition,” said Farhadi. “I hope this unity will continue and spread to fight other injustices. Filmmakers can break stereotypes around the world by turning their cameras to capture shared human qualities.”
The 89th Annual Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, were held at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, and aired on ABC.