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Farhadi’s Choice

By Staff Writer Sina Hanzaei ‘19

· Sina Hanzaei

Image from Wikimedia.

It came as a surprise to several film critics that Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, netting him his second Oscar in that category. Straightaway, many linked this accomplishment to Trump’s Muslim Ban (and make no mistake this is a Muslim Ban). Glossing over the racist undertones of these allegations - given that the film had already won several awards at the prestigious Cannes Festival - let us talk about Farhadi’s questionable decision of skipping the Oscars in protest.

Part of Farhadi’s statement that was read by Anousheh Ansari, the first Iranian woman in space, upon the acceptance of the award on his behalf is:

“However, 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. I would therefore like to convey via this statement what I would have expressed to the press were I to travel to the United States. Hard-liners, despite their nationalities, political arguments and wars, regard and understand the world in very much the same way. 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.”

Although condemned by many - including a noticeable portion of Iranian Millennials - I am a firm believer that what he did was necessary. The seven (now six) countries insulted by the recent ban have one thing in common. They are the voiceless, the ignored, and the exploited. The US and its allies have exercised such careless power over this region, that we have forgotten the fact that every single one of these countries has a rich history, unique culture, and outstanding human capital; it was time for a wake up call. Trump, living in his skewed fantasy of a perfect white America, still thinks of the people he banned as low-life terrorists, people who just consume what America has to offer without giving back. In his illusions he sees Muslims celebrating 9/11 as a holiday, and is completely okay with ignoring Muslim 9/11 first responders such as Mohammad Salman Hamdani, whose body was found in almost three dozen parts months afterwards. It is worth knowing that his name is not mentioned in the first responders’ section of the final memorial panel at Ground Zero, he is listed as a victim.

Many Muslims have to deal with this prejudice in the US. Muslims are looked upon as threats, and perceived as waiting patiently to carry out attacks, similar to how Russian sleeper agents in the Cold War era were portrayed. However, when that very same Muslim community has done something in lieu of “American values”, or has added significantly to America's economy, culture, or scientific research, they are ignored, and not celebrated. This racism - contrary to many of our liberal college friends’ opinions - is not limited to the deep south or Trump’s administration, and has been so prominent in American society that many of us have forgotten the doctors, soldiers, firefighters, and artists living within the US. We need a wake up call, and since this is a message that has to reach the common person, the medium used must be relatable. The majority of Americans can be reached using pop/mainstream culture. Farhadi’s decision to send two Iranian rocket scientists to accept his second Academy Award on his behalf was nothing less than meticulously calculated.

Evidently, a powerful way for Muslims to change how they are perceived in a society with very deeply rooted racism is to be loud. Their voices are not going to be heard most of the time even if they are, but every so often there comes a filmmaker, a firefighter, or a PhD candidate that has the possibility to be heard. Farhadi’s decision to take advantage of this opportunity should become a model for others to follow, if we want to move forward as a society.

It came as a surprise to several film critics that Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, netting him his second Oscar in that category. Straightaway, many linked this accomplishment to Trump’s Muslim Ban (and make no mistake this is a Muslim Ban). Glossing over the racist undertones of these allegations - given that the film had already won several awards at the prestigious Cannes Festival - let us talk about Farhadi’s questionable decision of skipping the Oscars in protest.

Part of Farhadi’s statement that was read by Anousheh Ansari, the first Iranian woman in space, upon the acceptance of the award on his behalf is:

“However, 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. I would therefore like to convey via this statement what I would have expressed to the press were I to travel to the United States. Hard-liners, despite their nationalities, political arguments and wars, regard and understand the world in very much the same way. 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.”

Although condemned by many - including a noticeable portion of Iranian Millennials - I am a firm believer that what he did was necessary. The seven (now six) countries insulted by the recent ban have one thing in common. They are the voiceless, the ignored, and the exploited. The US and its allies have exercised such careless power over this region, that we have forgotten the fact that every single one of these countries has a rich history, unique culture, and outstanding human capital; it was time for a wake up call. Trump, living in his skewed fantasy of a perfect white America, still thinks of the people he banned as low-life terrorists, people who just consume what America has to offer without giving back. In his illusions he sees Muslims celebrating 9/11 as a holiday, and is completely okay with ignoring Muslim 9/11 first responders such as Mohammad Salman Hamdani, whose body was found in almost three dozen parts months afterwards. It is worth knowing that his name is not mentioned in the first responders’ section of the final memorial panel at Ground Zero, he is listed as a victim.

Many Muslims have to deal with this prejudice in the US. Muslims are looked upon as threats, and perceived as waiting patiently to carry out attacks, similar to how Russian sleeper agents in the Cold War era were portrayed. However, when that very same Muslim community has done something in lieu of “American values”, or has added significantly to America's economy, culture, or scientific research, they are ignored, and not celebrated. This racism - contrary to many of our liberal college friends’ opinions - is not limited to the deep south or Trump’s administration, and has been so prominent in American society that many of us have forgotten the doctors, soldiers, firefighters, and artists living within the US. We need a wake up call, and since this is a message that has to reach the common person, the medium used must be relatable. The majority of Americans can be reached using pop/mainstream culture. Farhadi’s decision to send two Iranian rocket scientists to accept his second Academy Award on his behalf was nothing less than meticulously calculated.

Evidently, a powerful way for Muslims to change how they are perceived in a society with very deeply rooted racism is to be loud. Their voices are not going to be heard most of the time even if they are, but every so often there comes a filmmaker, a firefighter, or a PhD candidate that has the possibility to be heard. Farhadi’s decision to take advantage of this opportunity should become a model for others to follow, if we want to move forward as a society.

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