Viola Davis, Iranian movie win Oscars as Trump looms large

Actress Viola Davis with the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in the press room at the 89th Oscars on Sunday (Feb 26) in Hollywood, California.
Actress Viola Davis with the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in the press room at the 89th Oscars on Sunday (Feb 26) in Hollywood, California.PHOTO: AFP
Anousheh Ansari and Firouz Naderi posing with the Oscar they accepted on behalf of Asghar Farhadi, who won the Best Foreign Language Film for The Salesman.
Anousheh Ansari and Firouz Naderi posing with the Oscar they accepted on behalf of Asghar Farhadi, who won the Best Foreign Language Film for The Salesman.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS/AFP)- Iran's The Salesman, a drama about honour and revenge in a modern marriage, won the Oscar on Sunday for Best Foreign Language Film.

The movie, directed by Tehran-based Asghar Farhadi, marked Iran's second Oscar victory, coming five years after Farhadi's drama A Separation won the nation's first Academy Award.

The Salesman was seen as one of the favourites in the foreign language category after winning prizes at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and its win follows the fallout over United States President Donald Trump's crackdown on foreign travellers.

Farhadi, 44, and the film's lead actress Taraneh Alidoosti skipped the Oscars ceremony to protest Mr Trump's ban on travel to the United States from seven majority Muslim nations, including Iran. The policy is on hold after a decision by a federal appeals court.

Farhadi chose two Iranian-Americans - a female engineer and a former NASA scientist - to represent him at the ceremony.

Anousheh Ansari, an engineer who was the first female space tourist, read a statement on behalf of Farhadi. "My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US," Ansari said, in reading from Farhadi's statement. "Dividing the world into the 'us' and 'our enemies'categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war."

The Salesman tells the story of a quiet married couple whose relationship is pushed to the brink after the wife is attacked while alone in their Tehran apartment, and the husband goes to extreme lengths to seek revenge.

 

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At the same time, the couple is appearing in a local production of Arthur Miller's play Death Of A Salesman, and elements of the work mirror their fraught lives.

Farhadi's win came after thousands of people braved London's winter drizzle on Sunday for a screening of the film hosted by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Farhadi thanked the "dear people of London who are gathered on this cold afternoon", and said he was heartened by the reaction of film-makers and artists to "the oppressive travel ban of immigrants".

"I hope this movement will continue and spread for it has within itself the power to stand up to fascism, be victorious in the face of extremism and saying no to oppressive political powers everywhere," he said.

Meanwhile, Viola Davis won an Oscar on her third try on Sunday, for her acclaimed supporting role in Denzel Washington's big screen adaptation of August Wilson's searing play Fences.

The 51-year-old, a nominee in 2009 and 2012, bested a field that included two past Oscar winners - Nicole Kidman (Lion) and Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) - as well as Michelle Williams (Manchester By The Sea) and Naomie Harris (Moonlight).

"O captain! My captain! Denzel Washington, thank you for putting two entities in the driving seat - August and God. And they served you well," she said, appropriating a verse from US writer Walt Whitman.

Davis and Mahershala Ali, who won a Supporting Actor prize earlier on Sunday for Moonlight, were among a record seven actors of colour nominated for Academy Awards this year.

A film about the O.J. Simpson murder trial that transfixed the US two decades ago won the Best Documentary Oscar on Sunday, with its director Ezra Edelman dedicating the prize to crime victims.

O.J.: Made In America, the nearly eight-hour documentary made for the film division of sports network ESPN, researches in depth the 1994 killings of the American football star's ex-wife Nicole Brown and her companion Ron Goldman.

Buddy cop comedy Zootopia bagged the Oscar for Best Animated Feature film, crowning what turned into a record-breaking year of box office receipts for Disney in 2016.

The movie, which follows the exploits of intrepid rabbit police officer Judy Hopps, bested another Disney film, Moana, along with Kubo And The Two Strings, The Red Turtle and My Life As A Zucchini.