In A Politically-attuned Oscar Evening, Muslims Triumph

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This year’s Oscar outing was politically motivated and the most diverse with honours given to performers from countries affected by Trump’s immigration ban. Shruti Gattani unfurls the night that announced racism in Hollywood has disappeared.

While in the recent turn of events, the new immigration ban won’t include Iraq, it still hasn’t relieved many belonging to the other six-countries affected by this ban, including Oscar winners. The Iranian director of the best foreign film, Asghar Farhadi decided to boycott the award show as a protest towards the Trump’s ban and asked an Iranian-American to accept the award on his behalf.

However, in this article we are not talking about the wrong, but celebrating what is right. It’s time to put aside the historic Oscars’ Best Picture mix-up and pay attention to the much-deserving winners in some of the most celebrated categories.

Film on Syrian refugee group – White Helmets – scooped the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject. The eponymously-titled 40-minutes Netflix film revolves around the volunteer group that has fought hard and worked tirelessly in the rebel-torn parts of Syria, trying to save as many Syrian lives as possible. It shows the lives of these volunteers and how they pull people out from buildings collapsed in bombing raids.

White Helmets' Director Orlando von Einsiedel and Producer Joanna Natasegara hold their Oscars for Best Documentary Short Subject
White Helmets’ Director Orlando von Einsiedel and Producer Joanna Natasegara hold their Oscars for Best Documentary Short Subject

Director Orlando von Einsiedel, in his acceptance speech, urged the audience to get out of their seats and call for an end to Syria’s six-year civil war, which led to a standing ovation. He also read a statement from White Helmets founder Raed al-Saleh, which said, “We are so grateful that this film has highlighted our work to the world. Our organisation is guided by a verse from the Quran: To save one life is to save all of humanity.”

“We have saved more than 82,000 Syrian lives. I invite anyone here who hears me to work on the side of life to stop the bloodshed in Syria and around the world.” The group says many of its volunteers and rescue workers have been killed, as they are always at risk in the so-called double tap air raids that are aimed at them whenever they reach an area devastated by a strike.

White Helmets’ cinematographer Khaled Khatib never made it to the award show, even after being granted a visa. The Associated Press reported that the United States had refused entry to Syrian cinematographer Khaled Khatib. However, later on Twitter, he stated that he “was not able to travel to the Oscars due to his passport being cancelled by the Syrian regime, despite having been issued a US visa specifically to attend the awards ceremony.” Speaking to NBC News, he said that circumstances did not allow it, calling his experience ‘naseeb’— an Arabic expression meaning ‘fate’.

Iranian-American engineer Anousheh Ansari accepts the award on behalf of Asghar Farhadi, director of The Salesman
Iranian-American engineer Anousheh Ansari accepts the award on behalf of Asghar Farhadi, director of The Salesman

Another big win at the Oscars was in the Best Foreign Language Film category, which was awarded to The Salesman from Iran. This was the second win for acclaimed director Asghar Farhadi, who along with film’s lead actress, Taraneh Alidoosti refused to attend the ceremony. “I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight,” Farhadi’s statement read.

“My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of the other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.” In his statement, he also mentioned, “They create empathy between us and others. An empathy that we need today more than ever.”

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