LOS ANGELES • At its annual Oscar nominee luncheon on Monday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences called for diversity and freedom of expression, saying the United States should not put barriers in the way of artists from around the world.
The group's president, Ms Cheryl Boone Isaacs, told 165 Oscar- nominated actors and film-makers that there was a "struggle globally today over artistic freedom that feels more urgent than at any time since the 1950s", an apparent reference to the anti-communist blacklists in the movie industry at the time.
Speaking at the lunch in Beverly Hills, she noted that there were "some empty chairs in this room, which has made Academy artists activists".
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi and actress Taraneh Alidoosti - whose film The Salesman is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film - said last week they would boycott the awards on Feb 26 to protest US President Donald Trump's travel restrictions on Iranians and six other Muslim-majority countries.
Other Oscar nominees who expect to have difficulty travelling to Los Angeles for the ceremony include those behind the documentary The White Helmets, about civilian Syrian rescue workers.
Ms Isaacs did not directly mention the travel restrictions, but said: "America should always be not a barrier but a beacon... We stand up to those who would try and limit our freedom of expression.
"When we speak out against those who try and put up barriers, we reinforce this important truth - that all artists around the world are connected by a powerful bond, one that speaks to our creativity and common humanity."
Her address followed fiery speeches at recent awards shows and rallies by celebrities, ranging from actress Meryl Streep to singer Madonna to talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres condemning the travel ban, supporting civil and women's rights, and criticising Mr Trump's behaviour.
Ms Isaacs, who is African-American, also cited the Academy's efforts to improve diversity in its ranks. After two straight years in which all 20 acting nominees were white, this year, there are seven actors of colour among the Oscar nominees.
About 680 new members - many of them women or people of colour - have joined the Academy in the past 12 months in a bid to make the body that chooses the Oscar winners more representative.