Boycotting the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday evening, Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi took the opportunity of his acceptance speech to condemn President Donald Trump's "inhumane" travel ban and remind viewers that the power of film is that "they create empathy between us and others, an empathy that we need today more than ever."
Farhadi, who directed the film "The Salesman," had appointed two prominent Iranian-American space explorers to accept the award for Best Foreign Language film on his behalf—former NASA scientist Firouz Naderi, who was the project manager for the Mars exploration, and Anousheh Ansari, "the first self-funded woman in the world to have gone into space," according to the Guardian.
"I'm sorry I'm not with you tonight," Ansari said on Farhadi's behalf. "My absence is out of respect for the people in my country and those of the 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 Enemy' categories creates fear," the speech continued, "deceitful justification for aggression and war. These rules prevent democracy and human rights in countries that have themselves been victims of aggression."
"Filmmakers," Ansari read, "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 that we need today more than ever."
Watch the speech below:
Farhadi's words were particularly resonant given the individuals he chose to accept the award on his behalf, which the Guardian's Saeed Kamali Dehghan said added "an extra layer of subtlety to his message."
And as Naderi observed to reporters after the ceremony, "There are quite a number of prominent Iranian-Americans here that he could have asked."
"I think the reason that he chose the two of us," he added, "is if you go away from the Earth and look back at the Earth, you don't see any of the borders or the lines, you just see the one whole beautiful Earth."
Farhadi further expanded on the idea of the oneness of humanity in a statement provided to the New York Times when he first announced his boycott. It read, in part:
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 hardliners are the same. For years on both sides of the ocean, groups of hardliners 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.
A new version of Trump's controversial ban, which would suspend the U.S. refugee program and bar travel from Iran as well as six other majority-Muslim nations, is expected to be rolled out later this week after suffering numerous judicial setbacks. Last week, a federal judge blocked implementation of the executive order.