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Instead of Oscars Party, Hollywood Talent Agency Supporting Rights, Refugee Groups

  • VOA News

FILE - An Oscar statue is on display in Los Angeles, March 2, 2104.

A top Hollywood talent agency has scrapped plans for a party celebrating the Oscar awards and is instead planning a rally to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union and the International Rescue Committee.

United Talent Agency announced the move Wednesday, saying it will give $250,000 to the groups that promote civil rights and aid refugees. Its charitable arm has also organized an online crowd-funding effort to allow people to add their donations.

The IRC thanked UTA for its support in a Twitter message.

The February 24 rally will be in Los Angeles two days before the Oscar awards. UTA said the “United Voices” rally welcomes anyone who wants to express support for artistic freedom and “their concern with growing anti-immigrant sentiment in our country and its potential chilling effect around the world.”

“This is a moment that demands our generosity, awareness and restlessness,” said Jeremy Zimmer, the chief executive of UTA, in a memo to his staff. “Our world is a better place for the free exchange of artists, ideas and creative expression. If our nation ceases to be the place where artists the world over can come to express themselves freely, then we cease, in my opinion, to be America.”

FILE - Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi and his wife, Parisa, pose after he was awarded the Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters medal, at the French Ministry of Culture, in Paris, France, Feb. 27, 2014.
FILE - Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi and his wife, Parisa, pose after he was awarded the Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters medal, at the French Ministry of Culture, in Paris, France, Feb. 27, 2014.

One of the agency’s clients is Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who is nominated in the Best Foreign Language category for his film The Salesman. He won a 2012 Oscar in the same category, but will not be attending this year’s awards.

Iran is one of the seven countries listed in an executive order by U.S. President Donald Trump banning entry for 90 days.

“I hereby express my condemnation of the unjust conditions forced upon some of my compatriots and the citizens of the other six countries trying to legally enter the United States of America and hope that the current situation will not give rise to further divide between nations,” Farhadi said in a statement.

He further criticized hardliners, including those in Iran, who he said work to foster an “us and them” mentality.

“For years on both sides of the ocean, groups of hardliners have tried to present to their people unrealistic and fearful images of various nations and cultures in order to turn their differences into disagreements, their disagreements into enmities and their enmities into fears,” he said. “Instilling fear in the people is an important tool used to justify extremist and fanatic behavior by narrow-minded individuals.”

UTA said Farhadi felt “honored and in tears” when he heard about the agency’s announcement.

FILE - Actress Taraneh Alidoosti during a photo call for the film "Forushande" (The Salesman) at the 69th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, May 21, 2016.
FILE - Actress Taraneh Alidoosti during a photo call for the film "Forushande" (The Salesman) at the 69th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, May 21, 2016.

Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who stars in The Salesman, has also said she will not attend the awards ceremony in protest of the executive order.

“Trump’s visa ban for Iranians is racist,” she said on Twitter.

Trump says the ban is necessary to uphold his duty to protect American citizens. During his campaign for president, he frequently cited the need to better investigate those who come to the U.S. to ensure they do not post a terrorist threat. The administration of President Barack Obama defended the existing policies as extensive, and said refugees seeking to come to the U.S. often needed two years to make it through the screening process.

Another top talent agency, WME-IMG also announced plans this week to form a Political Action Committee, which raises money to support or oppose political candidates, ballot measures or legislation.

“This company’s greatest asset is the diversity of our backgrounds and beliefs,” the agency’s heads said in an email to their staff. “Please know that we will do everything in our power to support and protect this diversity now and in the months and years ahead.”

WME-IMG’s co-CEO is Ari Emanuel, who formerly represented Trump. He is also the brother of Rahm Emanuel, the current Democratic mayor of Chicago and Obama’s first White House chief of staff.

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