Iranian Oscar nominee gets free London screening in snub to US travel ban

The Salesman director Asghar Farhadi, who was hit by ban, says Trafalgar Square event on Oscars night is ‘symbolic of unity’

The mayor of London will join some of the leading names in British film at a free premiere screening of the Oscar-nominated The Salesman, the Iranian director of which was affected by Donald Trump’s travel ban.

During Academy Awards night on 26 February, Trafalgar Square will be transformed into London’s biggest open-air cinema for the first UK showing of Asghar Farhadi’s drama, hours before the Oscars are handed out in Hollywood.

Leading names from the British film industry, including the Palme d’Or-winning director Mike Leigh, will address an expected audience of up to 10,000 people in central London.

Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, is organising the screening, alongside the actor Lily Cole, the producer Kate Wilson and the film-maker Mark Donne, to coincide with the Oscars and “celebrate the capital’s success as a creative hub and beacon for openness and diversity” after the Brexit vote.

The announcement comes after actors and film-makers including Julie Christie, Kevin Macdonald, Keira Knightley, Ridley Scott and Terry Gilliam wrote to the Duke of Westminster to ask for permission to hold a screening outside the US embassy to protest against the US president’s ban on visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

Taraneh Alidoosti in a scene from The Salesman
The actor Taraneh Alidoosti in a scene from The Salesman. She also vowed to boycott the Oscars in protest at the travel ban. Photograph: Habib Majidi/AP

The Salesman is nominated for best foreign language film at the Oscars and stars Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini, who won best actor at Cannes last year. The film also won best screenplay at Cannes. Farhadi, who won a best foreign language film Oscar for A Separation in 2012, said he would not attend this year’s ceremony even if he were offered special dispensation, in solidarity with those who had been affected by the ban.

Farhadi said the Trafalgar Square screening had great symbolic value. “The gathering of the audience around The Salesman in this famous London square is symbolic of unity against the division and separation of people,” he said.

“I offer my warmest thanks to the mayor of London and the cinema community for this generous initiative. I welcome and appreciate this invaluable show of solidarity.”

Leigh said Farhadi, who he has known since serving with him on the 2012 Berlin film festival jury, was “one of the world’s greatest film-makers”.

“For those of us who make movies about real life, real people and real issues, he is a master, a true inspiration to all of us. We must show solidarity with Asghar and his principles, against divisiveness and hate,” Leigh said.

The London screening will begin at 4.30pm. Curzon Artificial Eye is also showing the film across the country on the same day.

Philip Knatchbull, the chief executive of Curzon, said it was a real privilege to be able to celebrate The Salesman with such a marquee screening. “Curzon is committed to film-makers from across the world who have outward-looking and inclusive voices, and to find common cause in that aim with the mayor of London is tremendous,” he said.

Trump’s executive order, now blocked by US courts, was roundly condemned by the international community, the UN and human rights groups, including the International Rescue Committee and Amnesty International.

Mike Leigh.
Mike Leigh. Photograph: Amit Lennon/The Guardian

The initial letter requesting a US embassy screening, which was redirected to Royal Parks, was also signed by Joanna Natasegara, the producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary The White Helmets, about the volunteer civil defence force operating in Syria.

Natasegara had intended to bring to the ceremony as her guests Raed Saleh, the leader of the White Helmets, and the cinematographer Khaled Khateeb, but despite being nominated for a Nobel peace prize, they would have been denied by Trump’s ban.

Farhadi originally planned to attend the Oscars ceremony to highlight “the unjust circumstances that have arisen for the immigrants and travellers of several countries to the United States”, he wrote to the New York Times. But the conditions that would be attached to a potential entry visa were unacceptable, he said.

The director compared the framing of the ban to the rhetoric of hardliners in Iran. “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,” he wrote.

Alidoosti also vowed to boycott the ceremony.

Trump's visa ban for Iranians is racist. Whether this will include a cultural event or not,I won't attend the #AcademyAwards 2017 in protest

— Taraneh Alidoosti (@t_alidoosti) January 26, 2017


Nadia Khomami

The GuardianTramp

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