Going into the Academy Awards, we knew that at least one nominee wouldn't be in attendance, The Salesman director, Asghar Farhadi. In a category that was loaded with talent, Farhadi won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-American space explorer and impressive businesswoman, accepted the award on his behalf. But Ansari came prepared to the 2017 Oscars with a statement from Asghar Farhadi, who had a brief but powerful message about the immigration ban that caused him to skip the ceremony in the first place.
Ansari is from Iran, one of the seven countries from which immigrants are temporarily banned from entering the United States, due to an executive order issued by President Trump. Farhadi had previously announced that he would not attend the Oscars even if an exception was made to allow him into the country.
He stayed true to that promise, and so Ansari took the stage to read a statement from the director. It stated:
"It’s a great honor to be receiving this valuable award for the second time. I would to like thank the members of the Academy, my crew in Iran, my producer Alexandre Mallet-Guy, Cohen Media, Amazon, and my fellow nominees in the Foreign Film category.
I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight. My absence is out of the respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations that 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 that have themselves been victims of aggression. 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."
You can also watch Ansari deliver the statement in the video below:
The statement received a thunderous round of applause from the Oscar attendees the moment it mentioned Farhadi's opposition to the ban, and again when Ansari finished reading it. That shouldn't have been surprising, as many celebrities have previously spoken out against the ban. And in a statement released to Bustle prior to the ceremony, the Academy supported Farhadi. It read in part:
"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."
Through both his absence and this concise message, Farhadi brought a powerful reminder to the Oscars of the dividing consequences of this order.