The Wednesday night murder of a young Indian engineer, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, in the US has merely strengthened the growing impression that politicians like American President Donald Trump are trying to promote hate. And this is precisely what the celebrated Iranian auteur, Asghar Farhadi, said in a video message to the UTA’s ‘United Voices’ rally on Friday afternoon.
Farhadi -– whose The Salesman is in the running for the best foreign language Oscar -– told the 1500-strong gathering at Beverly Hills: “It is comforting to know that at a time when some politicians are trying to promote hate by creating divisions between cultures, religions and nationalities, the cinema community has joined the people in a common show of unity to show its opposition. I hope this unity will continue and spread to fight other injustices. Filmmakers can break stereotypes around the world by turning their cameras to capture shared human qualities.”
In January, Farhadi – who had earlier won an Oscar for A Separation -– said that he would boycott the February 26 Oscars ceremony to protest Trump’s travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim majority countries, including Iran.
The ‘United Voices’ rally also had video speeches from Jodie Foster, Keegan Michael-Key, Michael J Fox, UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer, and California Lieutenant-Governor Gavin Newsom.
As reported in these columns, a ‘rebel show’ of The Salesman has been planned on the night of February 26 to convey displeasure over the travel restriction.
What is really interesting is that things have changed so much between 2003 and 2017, and here is an anecdote from the revolutionary documentary moviemaker, Michael Moore. When his Bowling for Columbine won the Oscar for the Best Documentary, it was a tense period in the US with the then American President, George Bush, having begun his carpet bombing and invasion of Baghdad.
In a recent interview to The Hollywood Reporter, Moore said: “When I finally got to the podium I just decided to give the same speech I’d given the day before at the Spirit Awards. It was a hit on the beach in Santa Monica. I talked about making nonfiction films while we lived in fictitious times, with a president elected with fictitious results. I had gotten a standing ovation in Santa Monica.
“The Kodak Theatre (where the Oscars ceremony is held) is not the beach in Santa Monica with an audience full of tattoos. As soon as I said fictitious times and the fictitious election results, there was a cacophony of sound, primarily boos. I could barely hear myself speak. It was like I had ignited a riot. They struck up the band on me and the microphone started to lower to the stage. I was hustled off into the wings, pretty dazed.”
Moore was made to look like some kind of a traitor.
And later that night, some television commentators said that this would be the end of Michael Moore. He would not be making any more movies.
But Mr Moore made six more documentaries between 2003 and 2016 – including his latest, Michael Moore in Trumpland.
Happily, Farhadi is not in such murky waters. He has about the entire world walking with him. Even many from Trumpland! And let us not forget that there was one white man who tried to save the Indian on Wednesday. So, well, it is not doomsday. Not yet.
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