In the lead-up to the Oscars, I missed something: directors nominated in the Best Foreign Film category issued a joint statement on Friday, and it’s quite remarkable.
The fear generated by dividing us into genders, colors, religions and sexualities as a means to justify violence destroys the things that we depend on – not only as artists but as humans: the diversity of cultures, the chance to be enriched by something seemingly “foreign” and the belief that human encounters can change us for the better. These divisive walls prevent
people from experiencing something simple but fundamental: from discovering that we are all not so different…
“Although we don’t want to overestimate the power of movies, we do believe that no other medium can offer such deep insight into other people’s circumstances and transform feelings of unfamiliarity into curiosity, empathy and compassion—even for those we have been told are our enemies.” —Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film Statement by all Nominated Directors, 2017
The director who ultimately won the category award, Iran’s Asghar Farhadi, didn’t personally attend the ceremony “out of respect for the people of my country and those of [the] other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US.” This line prompted emphatic applause.
Just last week, NASA reported that it’s found Earth-sized planets within 40 light years of us. The day of that announcement Twitter was full of jokes about packing up, heading over there, and leaving the chaos behind.
But as every science fiction writer has ever imagined, we can’t actually leave the chaos behind. We are the chaos!
Nearly 40 years ago, Mirtha N. Quintanales reflected on the fault lines in the US women’s movement, in-group and out-group fault lines that rupture given enough time and energy but otherwise simmer and blister under the skin of our communities.
“We are still seeing radical differences when they don’t exist and not seeing them when they are critical,” she wrote. “And most disastrously, we are failing to recognize much of what we share.”
Is it not possible for us to recognize, respect, and settle our differences; to validate our various groups’ struggles and need for separate spaces, and yet to open our eyes to the fact that divided we are only likely to succeed at defeat?” —Mirtha N. Quintanales, “I Paid Very Hard for My Immigrant Ignorance”
These are questions we need to ask and answer again, even in industries like Hollywood where people know enough to applaud a carefully pitched statement of critique and hope from a skilled and respected foreigner.