Watching The Oscars has been a tradition in my family for over 30 years. My aunts, uncles and cousins gather at one of our houses, fill out ballots for who we think will win each category and enjoy the show. We even have our own red carpet that leads from the porch to inside, so everyone gets a chance to strut their stuff.

I love this tradition, not only because I get to spend time with my family, but because of all the excitement and controversy that’s bound to come out of the show. There’s always something to be talked about after The Oscars because everybody loves gossip.

Last year’s show was highly criticized for its lack of diversity among nominees. Many celebrities boycotted the show because of this reason. This year, President Donald Trump’s travel ban was a main topic of conversation among acceptance speeches and monologues.

Cinematographer Khaled Khateeb was scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles the day before the show was recorded. However, the Department of Homeland Security blocked Khateeb from entering the United States. “Derogatory information” was the term used to explain why Khateeb was denied entry. This vague term could be applied to “everything from terrorist threats to a passport irregularity,” according to Rolling Stone.

Twenty-one-year-old Khateeb was the cinematographer for “The White Helmets,” which won award for Best Documentary (Short Subject).

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi was the winner of the night’s Best Foreign Language Film award for “The Salesman.” In protest of the ban, Farhadi didn’t attend the award show. However, his speech was read by Anousheh Ansari, the first female private space explorer and first astronaut of Iranian descent.

Farhadi said: “I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight. My absence is 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 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.”

Many actors, actresses, directors and other celebrities have been vocal in their opinions of the new presidency and what impact it is having on the entire world. The filmmakers behind the five movies nominated for Best Foreign Language Film released a joint statement to “express our unanimous and emphatic disapproval of the climate of fanaticism and nationalism as we see today in the U.S.”

Lately, people have been overlooking celebrities who have been trying to stick their noses into politics because they’re too privileged and simply cannot relate, but this statement is coming from the people who are being directly affected by Trump’s orders. They are using their platform to bring light to an already controversial issue that’s dividing not only the country, but the entire world now.

“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 change to be enriched by something seemingly ‘foreign’ and the belief that human encounters can change us for the better,” the filmmakers wrote.

I’ve written about empathy before, and this is just another example of how the world desperately needs to better understand each other. I strongly believe film is extremely powerful and has the opportunity to influence how people think. Sadly, these celebrities have a better chance of creating change than the average person does, and most do not take responsibility that lightly.

Farhadi said: “Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between us and others, an empathy which we need today more than ever.”

Email Laura Schmidt at opinions@cardinalpointsonline.com

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