The 2017 Oscars was a night full of high emotion and total surprises. But amidst the drama of the gong for Best Picture being mistakenly handed to La La Land instead of Moonlight and Viola Davis’ show-stopping Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech, there was another moment that also deserves our attention: Anouseh Ansari’s acceptance speech for The Salesman.
In a move interpreted by some as a protest vote against Donald Trump’s travel ban, The Salesman was announced as the winner of the best foreign language Oscar at the awards ceremony on Sunday night. The drama, which tells the story of a young couple starring together in an Arthur Miller play, was directed by Iranian director and screenwriter Asghar Farhadi.
The Salesman’s win is the second time that Farhadi has picked up an Academy Award in the same category: he collected his first foreign language Oscar in 2012, for his movie A Separation. But while Farhadi attended the Oscars in 2012, he boycotted this year’s ceremony in protest at Donald Trump’s travel ban.
In his place, he sent Iranian-American engineer and astronaut Anouseh Ansari – who made history in 2006 as the first Muslim woman to enter space – to pick up the award, and deliver a moving acceptance speech on his behalf.
Reading Farhadi’s words, Ansari told the Oscars audience: “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and the other six countries that have been disrespected by the inhuman law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.
“Dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ category creates fear,” she continued.
Farhadi’s speech went on to address the important role filmmakers have to play in politically fraught times.
“Filmmakers can turn their camera to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes,” read Ansari. “They can create empathy between us and others...which we need now more than ever.”
Trump’s executive order, signed on 27 January, said that all travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen were not permitted to enter the US for 90 days, or be issued an immigrant or non-immigrant visa.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who had introduced a free screening of The Salesman in the UK capital on Sunday evening, tweeted his approval of the film’s win.
In another significant moment for Muslims in Hollywood, Moonlight star Mahershala Ali became the first ever Muslim to win an acting Oscar.
Collecting his best supporting actor gong, the 43-year-old said: “I had so many wonderful teachers, and one thing that they consistently told me… was it wasn’t about you, it’s not about you. It’s about these characters.
“You’re in service to these stories and these characters. And I’m so blessed to have had an opportunity.”
Images: Rex Features, Getty