As part of its #LondonIsOpen campaign, the British capital tonight transformed Trafalgar Square into a massive cinema to host the UK premiere of Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-nominated The Salesman. About 10,000 protesters turned up to the screening, The Guardian reports. Appearing via videolink from Tehran, the film’s Iranian helmer Farhadi said he was “extremely happy that the scattered reactions from people and art communities across the globe shown to the oppressive travel ban of immigrants has developed into a powerful and unified movement.”
Farhadi was of course referencing President Donald Trump’s attempt to ban people from seven largely Muslim countries, including Iran, from entering the U.S. The Salesman is nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar category, but Farhadi said in late January that he would not attend the ceremony even if given special dispensation. Although the ban has since been stalled by federal judges, the timing of tonight’s London screening is clearly significant given the Oscars were due to start just a few hours later — with the kudofest expected to be the most political in recent memory.
“I hope this movement will continue and spread for it has within itself the power to stand up to fascism, be victorious in the face of extremism and saying no to oppressive political powers everywhere,” Farhadi said.
“Despite our different religions, nationalities and cultures, we are all citizens of the world,” Farhadi told the crowd, per Reuters. “I’m very proud to be a member of this global family. I’m sorry I’m not able to be here with you but I will be there in spirit.”
Tonight’s free screening was organized by London mayor Sadiq Khan, actress Lily Cole, producer Kate Wilson and filmmaker Mark Donne. It was intended to “celebrate the capital’s diversity and demonstrates that London is open to creative talent as well as people from all countries and all communities.”
The British-born Khan, who is of Pakistani descent, told the crowd tonight, “President Trump can’t silence me… As I look around Trafalgar Square, I am proud and you should be proud, too, because here today we have men and women, old and young, rich and poor, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists… we have people from all around the world and the key message we send to the world is London is open.
“We stand in solidarity with Asghar Farhadi. We stand in solidarity with all those who are discriminated against because of their nationality, faith or background. We don’t just tolerate difference. We respect it, we celebrate it, and we embrace it.”
Palme d’Or winner Mike Leigh was also present tonight. He said, “This event is by way of a protest and a very serious one. It’s very much a celebration, too. Our protest is against President Trump’s cynical, divisive and destructive policies, especially his unforgivable travel ban. It’s hard just to say President Trump and not add adjectives and pejoratives, but we are here to celebrate our great multicultural and cosmopolitan city.”