In late January, President Trump issued an immigration ban on the predominantly Muslim countries of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan. The order indefinitely banned the entry of Syrian refugees and stopped the admission of all refugees for four months. Trump’s executive order has sparked nationwide protests and has been subject to heavy criticism. Many celebrities, including James Corden, Taylor Schilling, and Mahershala Ali, have spoken out against Trump’s ban, politicizing this year’s awards season. From the Grammys to the Oscars, the outrage against the Muslim ban has reached far and wide into the entertainment world.
Two days after Trump signed the ban, the Screen Actors Guild Awards was held. “I love this country and because I love this country, I am horrified by its blemishes,” actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus said as she accepted the award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, “This immigrant ban is a blemish and it is un-American.”
“Moonlight” actor Mahershala Ali tearfully delivered his acceptance speech, “My mother is an ordained minister, I’m a Muslim. But I tell you now, we put things to the side, and I’m able to see her. She’s able to see me. We love each other. The love has grown, and that stuff is minutiae. It’s not that important.” Ali also recently became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar, quickly catching the attention of social media. “The first #Oscars winner is a Muslim. America is already great, Donald,” tweeted author Anand Giridharadas, directly addressing the President’s immigration ban.
Many people in the entertainment field were directly impacted by the Muslim ban. 21-year-old Syrian cinematographer Khaled Khateeb, who worked on the Academy Award nominated film “The White Helmets,” was barred from attending the awards show. The Department of Homeland Security decided last minute to prevent Khateeb from traveling to Los Angeles on a Turkish Airlines flight for “derogatory information,” a category that ranges from passport irregularities to terrorist connections. “The White Helmets” is a 40-minute long Netflix documentary that focuses on Syrian volunteers who rescue Syrians caught in the crossfires of their country’s civil war. The group was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize last year. The film was awarded the Oscar, which Director Orlando von Einsiedel and Producer Joanna Natasegara accepted by thanking the organization’s members and raising awareness on the refugee crisis, “I invite anyone here who hears me to work on the side of life to stop the bloodshed in Syria,” Einsiedel stated.
President Trump’s refugee ban has also barred two-time Oscar nominee Asghar Farhadi from entering the U.S. Nominated as the director and writer of “The Salesman,” Iran’s entry for best foreign-language film, Farhadi was not able to attend this year’s Academy Awards. Both Farhadi and “The Salesman” star Taraneh Alidoosti had announced previous to the executive order that they would not be attending the awards show in protest of the conditions of President Trump’s ban. “The Salesman” went on to win the award, to which Iranian-American engineer Anousheh Ansari delivered an acceptance speech on Farhadi’s behalf. “I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight,” it read. “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhuman law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S. Dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression.”
President Trump was also targeted during the 59th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony on February 12th. Host James Corden performed an introductory rap with lyrics, “With President Trump we don’t know what comes next / We sit here tonight, don’t matter our race, where we were born or color of face / using this art, remember forever, we can survive by sticking together.”
Whether or not the voices of celebrities has effected significant change, their comments have brought even more awareness of the current issues to the general public. By those involved in the entertainment business — actors, directors, journalists, etc — exercising their right to freedom of speech and continuing to express their views, both onscreen and off, will ensure the issues that matter most can finally get the spotlight they deserve.
Graphics: Jessica Chang