awards organizers call for artistic freedom, no U.S.
Send a link to a friend
[February 07, 2017]
By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The head of the organization
behind the Oscar awards on Monday called for diversity
and freedom of expression, saying the United States
should not put barriers in the way of artists from
around the world.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion
Picture Arts and Sciences, told the 165 Oscar-nominated actors
and film makers 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 of some in the movie industry at the time.
Speaking at a luncheon in Beverly Hills for the 2017 nominees,
Isaacs noted that there were "some empty chairs in this room,
which has made Academy artists activists."
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi and actress Taraneh Alidoosti,
who stars in his foreign-language nominated film "The Salesman,"
said last week they would boycott the Feb. 26 Academy Awards to
protest President Donald Trump's travel restrictions on Iranians
and six other Muslim-majority countries.
Other Oscar nominees who expect to find difficulty traveling to
Los Angeles for the ceremony include those behind documentary
"The White Helmets" about civilian Syrian rescue workers.
Isaacs did not directly mention the travel restrictions, but she
said, "America should always be not a barrier but a beacon. ...
We stand up to those who would try and limit our freedom of
"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," she said, to loud applause.
[to top of second column]
Isaacs' address followed fiery speeches at recent awards shows and
rallies by celebrities ranging from Meryl Streep to Madonna and
Ellen DeGeneres condemning the travel ban, supporting civil and
women's rights, and criticizing Trump's behavior.
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 color among the Oscar nominees.
"Wow! What a difference a year makes," she said.
Some 683 new members - many of them women or people of color - have
joined the Academy in the past 12 months in a bid to make the body
that chooses the Oscar winners more representative.
"When we reach out to be inclusive, we set a shining example," said
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; editing by Jill Serjeant and Jonathan
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.