Art and Experience: Some of Britain’s leading names in film will try to screen the Oscar-nominated film of an Iranian director affected by Donald Trump’s travel ban outside the US embassy in London on Academy Awards night.
Actors and film-makers including Julie Christie, Kevin Macdonald, Kiera Knightley and Terry Gilliam have written to the Duke of Westminster for permission to hold an outdoor screening of Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman in Grosvenor Square on 26 February.
The group including Oscar winners and nominees, which also comprised Andrea Arnold, Joshua Oppenheimer, Glenn Close and Mike Leigh, have signed the letter, seen by the Guardian. It was sent to Hugh Grosvenor on Monday morning.
The screening is intended to be an act of protest against Trump’s ban on refugees and travellers from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
The Salesman is nominated for best foreign language film at the Oscars, but it remains unclear whether the Iranian cast and crew can attend the Hollywood ceremony. Farhadi, who won an Oscar for The Separation in 2012, said he would not attend even if he could.
Signatories to the letter also include the directors Anton Corbijn, Nick Broomfield, Sarah Gavron, Carol Morley, Clio Barnard and Peter Webber, as well as the actors Dominic West and Lily Cole.
Another signatory is Joanna Natasegara, producer of the documentary The White Helmets, also nominated for an Oscar this year. Natasegara had intended to bring Raed Saleh, the leader of the White Helmets, and Khaled Khateeb, the cinematographer, as her guests to the ceremony, but because of Trump’s ban they will no longer be able to attend.
In a previous statement, she highlighted that her guests had been nominated for a Nobel peace prize and were “the bravest humanitarians on the planet. The idea that they could not be able to come with us and enjoy that success is just abhorrent.”
The letter to the Duke of Westminster emphasises that Trump’s executive order, signed on Friday, has been roundly condemned by all major international institutions working in the field of universal human rights and civil liberties, including the United Nations, the International Rescue Committee and Amnesty international. It adds that “as one [individual but highly symbolic] consequence” of the ban, Farhadi would no longer be allowed to enter the US.
The letter says: “As an open expression of peaceful civic protest at this critical time, we wish to screen Mr Farhadi’s film in Grosvenor Square; directly opposite the United States embassy building. We believe it is our duty as members of the film-making 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.
“We wish to hold an event in solidarity with Mr Farhadi himself, but crucially, with the many thousands of innocent people who will now be negatively impacted and harmed by a policy of outright discrimination such as this.” The letter adds that organisers would seek event permission from Westminster council.
Farhadi originally planned to attend the Oscar ceremony to highlight “the unjust circumstances which 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 any potential entry visa were unacceptable, he said.
He 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.
The Iranian national joined one of his stars, Taraneh Alidoosti, in vowing to boycott the ceremony. “Trump’s visa ban for Iranians is racist,” Alidoosti wrote on Twitter last week. “Whether this will include a cultural event or not, I won’t attend the #AcademyAwards 2017 in protest.”
Mark Donne, the director of UK Gold who organised the letter, said: “Millions of people across the world want to do anything within their sphere of influence to resist the repellant, discriminatory executive order issued by Donald Trump. We’re no different.
“As a community of actors, producers and directors we’ve chosen to show solidarity with Asghar Farhadi, both as an artist within the film medium but also as an Iranian, one of seven Muslim-majority nationalities that Trump has decided to ban from the US, along with the most desperate people on the planet: refugees.
“By showing Mr Farhadi’s film we’d like to create an expression of solidarity with Mr Farhadi and all those harmed by this madness, and to present a peaceful, civic protest that is highly visible to both the US government and our own.”
Over the weekend, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also expressed concern. A spokeswoman said: “As supporters of film-makers – 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 film The Salesman, could be barred from entering the country because of their religion or country of origin.”
Stars from the US film industry also voiced anger at Trump’s immigration policies. Michael Moore 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.”
The actor and director Rob Reiner tweeted: “Along with liar, racist, misogynist, fool, infantile, sick, narcissist – with the Muslim ban we can now add heartless and evil to [Donald Trump’s] repertoire.”