Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, will join some of the leading names in British film at a free premiere screening of the Oscar-nominated The Salesman, the Iranian director of which was affected by Donald Trump’s travel ban.
According to The Guardian, during Academy Awards night on 26 February, Trafalgar Square will be transformed into London’s biggest open-air cinema for the first UK showing of Asghar Farhadi’s drama, hours before the Oscars are handed out in Hollywood.
Leading names from the British film industry, including the Palme d’Or-winning director Mike Leigh, will address an expected audience of up to 10,000 people in central London.
Sadiq Khan is organising the screening, alongside the actor Lily Cole, the producer Kate Wilson and the film-maker Mark Donne, to coincide with the Oscars and “celebrate the capital’s success as a creative hub and beacon for openness and diversity” after the Brexit vote.
The announcement comes after actors and film-makers including Julie Christie, Kevin Macdonald, Keira Knightley, Ridley Scott and Terry Gilliam wrote to the Duke of Westminster to ask for permission to hold a screening outside the US embassy to protest against the US president’s ban on visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
The Salesman is nominated for best foreign language film at the Oscars and stars Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini, who won best actor at Cannes last year. The film also won best screenplay at Cannes. Farhadi, who won a best foreign language film Oscar for A Separation in 2012, said he would not attend this year’s ceremony even if he were offered special dispensation, in solidarity with those who had been affected by the ban.
Farhadi said the Trafalgar Square screening had great symbolic value. “The gathering of the audience around The Salesman in this famous London square is symbolic of unity against the division and separation of people,” he said.
“I offer my warmest thanks to the mayor of London and the cinema community for this generous initiative. I welcome and appreciate this invaluable show of solidarity.”
Leigh said Farhadi, who he has known since serving with him on the 2012 Berlin film festival jury, was “one of the world’s greatest film-makers”.
“For those of us who make movies about real life, real people and real issues, he is a master, a true inspiration to all of us. We must show solidarity with Asghar and his principles, against divisiveness and hate,” Leigh said.
The London screening will begin at 4.30pm. Curzon Artificial Eye is also showing the film across the country on the same day.
Philip Knatchbull, the chief executive of Curzon, said it was a real privilege to be able to celebrate The Salesman with such a marquee screening. “Curzon is committed to film-makers from across the world who have outward-looking and inclusive voices, and to find common cause in that aim with the mayor of London is tremendous,” he said.
Trump’s executive order, now blocked by US courts, was roundly condemned by the international community, the UN and human rights groups, including the International Rescue Committee and Amnesty International.
Farhadi originally planned to attend the Oscars ceremony to highlight “the unjust circumstances that have arisen for the immigrants and travellers of several countries to the United States”, he wrote to the New York Times. But the conditions that would be attached to a potential entry visa were unacceptable, he said.
Alidoosti also vowed to boycott the ceremony.