Sometimes the Oscars are more than just fun, more than even worldwide recognition for very talented movie-makers. Sometimes, the awards show makes history.
Such was the case Sunday night.
We’ve rarely seen anything, for instance, that was both diplomatic and courageous. We did at the Oscars. Asghar Farhadi, whose Iranian film A Separation won for Best Foreign Film, had this to say:
“At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy. They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or filmmaker, but because at the time when talk of war, intimidation, and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country Iran is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics. I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, a people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment.”
Mr. Farhadi’s words were exquisitely diplomatic, but powerful. Besides the usual graciousness, albeit delivered with unusual grace, it was a courageous, elegantly worded political statement. Without ever uttering the word “peace,” it was a prayer for it nonetheless, and at a most delicate moment in world affairs – as his government careens seemingly unstoppably toward nuclear weapons, all the while beating the drums of jingoism and hatred.
Despite the careful language, his short address was long on courage: His statement that Iranians are “a people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment” was a clear rebuke of his government, and an extended hand to the world.
Such hands often get cut off: As one observer noted Monday, another Iranian filmmaker has been sentenced to six years in prison and banned from filmmaking for 20 years for supposed anti-government propaganda – though, beautifully, he managed to participate in a documentary called This Is Not A Film that was smuggled out of Iran on a thumb drive hidden in a cake.
Farhadi clearly felt this was the most he could get away with, though we do wish he’d gone further in speaking out for artistic and political freedom. A free Iranian people, after all, may be the key to peace.
Still, what a history-making moment. And we hope his peace-loving phrase that Iranians are “a people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment” reverberates throughout the world.
Especially in his home country.