Once upon a time, directors whose movies were rejected for the Indian Panorama of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) would screen their works in theatres outside the festival venue. Their shows would defiantly go on along with the festival screenings. Believe it or not, some of these movies were far better than the ones in the Panorama. One still remembers these ‘rebel shows’ in cities like Thiruvananthapuram - where the travelling IFFI used to set up its camp before it got a permanent venue at Panaji in Goa. It now seems that some of the top cinema personalities in the UK have taken a leaf out of the India chapter, and are now planning to screen the Oscar nominated work, The Salesman, by the Iranian auteur, Asghar Farhadi, in London. He is one among those affected by the recent travel ban imposed by President Donald Trump.
The London ‘rebel’ show - as a mark of protest against Trump’s ban on refugees and visitors from seven Islamic states (Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen) - is likely to take place on the very night the Academy Awards are announced in Los Angeles - which is February 26.
Actors and filmmakers -- including Julie Christie, Kevin Macdonald, Kiera Knightley and Terry Gilliam -- have sought the permission of the Duke of Westminster to screen The Salesman at London’s Grosvenor Square. The group also includes Oscar winners and nominees like Mike Leigh, Glen Close and Andrea Arnold. (Strangely, a brilliant work like I, Daniel Blake by Leigh on the cruel social security system in Britain was given a miss by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences).
The letter to the Duke quoted by The Guardian reads: “As an open expression of peaceful civic protest at this critical time, we wish to screen Mr Farhadi’s movie in Grosvenor Square; directly opposite the United States embassy building. We believe it is our duty as members of the filmmaking community, in a city renowned for its values of tolerance, compassion and multiculturalism, to make an important public expression of protest to the United States Government that will resonate nationally and globally.”
The Academy has also been upset with the Trump order. A spokeswoman said: “As supporters of moviemakers - 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 movie, The Salesman, could be barred from entering the country because of their religion or country of origin.”
American stars have also been quite livid. Michael Moore, whose documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, famously bashed President George Bush and won the Palm d’ Or at Cannes, tweeted: “To our Muslim neighbours in the world: I & tens of millions of others are so very sorry. The majority of Americans did not vote 4 this man.”
In fact, Hollywood had never expected Trump to win. In a frank statement that actor George Clooney made during a press conference at Cannes last May, he said: “There will not be a President Donald Trump.”
The Salesman is one of the five films nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. The other four are Toni Erdmann from Germany, Land of Mine (Denmark), Swedish title A Man Called Ove and Australia’s Tanna.
India’s Visaaranai by Vetrimaaran - an excellent take on police brutality on hapless migrant workers - missed the boat. It did not even make it to the first list of nine movies.
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