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Hollywood Recognizes Iranian Film Director


Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi won the Oscar for best foreign language film Sunday night for “The Salesman.”


Political statements are not new to the Academy Awards ceremony. A number of award-winning actors and movie directors have made such comments over the years.

On Sunday, America’s movie industry recognized an Iranian film, “The Salesman,” as the best foreign language film of 2016.

The film’s director, Asghar Farhadi, was not in Hollywood to get the award, called an Oscar. Farhadi said earlier he would not come to California as a protest of President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration. The order barred refugees and others from Iran and six other Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

This month, a federal court ruling has blocked enforcement of the measure. Trump has said his administration is preparing a new order to help protect the United States against a possible terrorist attack.

At the awards ceremony, Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-American astronaut, accepted the Oscar for Farhadi. She read a statement written by the director.

“I'm sorry I'm not with you tonight," Ansari read. "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."

Firouz Naderi stood by Ansari as she read the statement. Naderi once worked for NASA, America’s space agency, and like Ansari, is an Iranian-American.

"Dividing the world into 'us' and 'enemies' categories creates fear," Ansari said, continuing Farhadi's statement. “Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break sterotypes of various nationalities and religions.”

The statement noted that filmmakers can create empathy – the ability to share feelings – between us and others … “An empathy that we need today more than ever.”

Firouz Naderi, left, and Anousheh Ansari pose in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Firouz Naderi, left, and Anousheh Ansari pose in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Speaking later, Naderi said that Farhadi could have chosen from many important Iranians to speak for him at the Oscars. But, Naderi said, he chose two scientists who specialize in space because, "if you go away from the Earth and look back at the Earth you don't see the borders and the lines."

This was the second Oscar win for Farhadi. In 2012, he won best foreign film for “A Separation.”

His film “The Salesman” is the story about two people performing the American writer Arthur Miller’s famous play “Death of a Salesman.”

Some people said the film produced support for immigrant rights after Trump’s executive order was announced.

The directors of the six films nominated in the foreign language category put out a statement before the Oscars. They criticized what they called the climate of “fanaticism” in the United States. They said the award is meant for “unity and understanding,” no matter who won.

In Iran, the Associated Press reported that many people seemed energized by the win. Vice President Ishaq Jahangiri praised Farhadi both for the award and for not going to the ceremony. He called it a “priceless action.”

Relations between the two countries have been tested since Trump became president last month. His administration put Iran “on notice” after it test-fired a ballistic missile.

In Britain, “The Salesman” movie was shown in London’s Trafalgar Square on Sunday. Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim mayor of London, England, posted a video statement by Asghar Farhadi on Facebook.

Speaking from Tehran, Farhadi said in English that he is “extremely happy” about reactions against the U.S. order by “people and art communities around the world.” He said the reactions show the opposition to the travel ban “has developed into a powerful and unified movement.”

I’m Anne Ball.

And I'm Kevin Turner.

Anne Ball wrote this story for Learning English with material from Reuters and the Associated Press. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

executive - adj. dealing with the President

stereotype – n. an often unfair and untrue belief that many people have about all people or things with a particular characteristic

category - n. a type or kind

fanaticism - n. being very enthusiastic about something

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