One of the highlights of Sunday’s Oscars ceremony is, without a doubt, the statement made by Iranian director and two-time Oscar winner, Asghar Farhadi.
We are free to think that cinema is a means of pure entertainment, and it is—partially. But those moving images are hypnotizing, powerful and a language in and of themselves.
They hold up a mirror to a visionary’s mind. They’re carefully composed, fueled by imagination and talent that has the power to elevate our spirits. We escape our reality for a couple of hours into the reality of others that’s intensified by a projection of emotions and, above all, empathy.
That’s why no matter how we try to perceive cinema, the magnitude of its ability to awaken higher consciousness and to fight stereotypes becomes a statement in itself—a fraction of the truth, or at least the truth of a filmmaker.
Asghar Farhadi received an Oscar for “The Salesman” in the Best Foreign Language category. The Iranian-American engineer Anousheh Ansari accepted the Oscar on Farhadi’s behalf, as he was not in attendance at this year’s Academy Awards due to the fact that he was protesting the “inhumane law” against refugees.
The speech highlighted what we’re lacking the most in this strange world: the need for empathy.
“Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between ‘us’ and ‘others,’ an empathy which we need today more than ever.” ~ Asghar Farhadi, as delivered by Anousheh Ansari
This declaration on a platform viewed by millions around the globe was a necessity. It was an artist’s responsibility with effects that extended beyond those couple of hours.
Don’t get me wrong, I love dancing to the tunes of the imaginary world of musicals. But we are also responsible—all of us, and there’s no room for neutrality in this period of time. We need to carry our weapons of words, music and images and claim our rights as human beings, our right to be treated with empathy and erase the word “others” from our existence.
“Dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression.” ~ Asghar Farhadi
I hope we reflect upon those words and work to “make empathy great again,” while celebrating the magic of cinema and its power to create a more enlightened future.
Author: Reem Saleh
Editor: Callie Rushton