The 2017 film awards show circuit has been more politically charged than most, from Meryl Streep’s speech criticizing President Trump for mocking a disabled reporter during his 2016 campaign to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ pointedly humorous imitation of Trump, performed as she accepted a Screen Actors Guild Award for her role on HBO’s “Veep.”
Central to Hollywood’s current political moment has been Trump’s now-suspended temporary ban on entry to the United States for all refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, and indefinite ban on entry for Syrian citizens.
Under the executive order that established that ban, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose film “The Salesman” is nominated for Best Foreign Picture — and whose earlier film “A Separation” won that award in 2012 — would have been unable to attend the ceremony. Even if an exception were made, he later declared in a statement, he would refuse to travel to the United States for the ceremony; “it now seems that 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,” he wrote.
The ban also would have prevented the Syrian subjects of two films nominated for best documentary short from attending the ceremony. Raed Saleh, leader of Syria’s volunteer civil defense organization The White Helmets, and Khaled Khatib, also a member of the group, starred in Orlando von Einsiedel’s documentary “The White Helmets,” and Hala Kamil, a Syrian refugee who now lives in Germany, was the subject of Marcel Mettelsiefen’s “Watani: My Homeland.”
What will Farhadi, Saleh, Khatib, and Kamil do Sunday night, now that the ban is suspended?
Farhadi, rather than attend the ceremony, will attend a free public screening of “The Salesman” in London’s Trafalgar Square, organized by London’s mayor Sadiq Khan.
“Screening The Salesman in Trafalgar Square has a great symbolic value for me,” Farhadi said, in a statement issued by Khan’s office. “The gathering of the audience around ‘The Salesman’ in this famous London square is a symbol of unity against the division and separation of people.”
Saleh, Khatib, and Kamil, on the other hand, will attend the ceremony. As The New York Times’s Cara Buckley reported, Khatib, who also worked as a cinematographer on “The White Helmets,” issued a statement announcing his decision to attend.
“I do this work because I believe if the world understands the suffering of my people, they will be moved to stop it, to stand with us on the side of life,” he said.
Kamil also issued a statement, explaining that the ceremony would, for her, be a difficult emotional occasion. Her husband, kidnapped by the Islamic State, is presumed dead; in former years, she said, she and he would watch the awards show each year.