To my mind, it’s Asghar Farhadi, who won the Best Foreign Language Film award for A Separation, and marked the occasion with by far the classiest, most meaningful speech of the evening, one that far surpassed much of the foreign policy discussions on how to approach the relationship between his country, Iran, and the United States. He told the audience:
At this time, many Iranian 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.
One of the best things art can do is expose who we are, in all our beauty and ugliness, and remind us of what we’re capable of being. And in this case, it was also a brave act. Farhadi’s been wearing a necktie most of this awards season in a subtle rebuke to the Iranian regime’s suggestion that it’s a decadent Western accessory, and tonight, some commentators suggest that his speech could prevent him from returning to Iran or make life uncomfortable for him when he got back there. That’s a real risk for an award that carries less benefit than a Best Actor or Best Director statuette. Farhadi should be an example to politically engaged artists — and to politicians — everywhere.