EXCLUSIVE: Bahar Pars was born in Iran and has lived in Sweden for 18 years, carrying passports from both countries. But the co-star of Music Box’s Foreign Language Oscar nominee A Man Called Ove may now join other talent in being barred from entering the United States and attending the Academy Awards.
Under the “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry” executive order signed by President Donald Trump last Friday, people from seven countries including Iran have been barred from traveling to the U.S. Pars’ situation has been in limbo since the order was enacted. She tells me that even though she has spent so many years in Sweden, “it’s about where you are born. They took away my identity. In one night, I’m not Swedish anymore.”
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However, as she understands it, an exemption has now been made for people with dual citizenship. “Today, I can travel. Yesterday, I couldn’t. And tomorrow, who knows?,” she says.
Pars was born in Iran and emigrated to Sweden at age 5. She studied acting at Sweden’s national school of drama and Ove is her breakthrough, with a nomination for a Guldbaggen Award. She has also received a number of awards for her directing debut, short film GhettoSwedish. Her second short is currently in competition at the Gothenburg International Film Festival.
In Ove, Pars plays Parvaneh, a woman who moves with her husband next door to the titular character in Hannes Holm’s heartwarming hit. The pair develop an unlikely friendship. A box office smash at home, the movie is based on the bestseller by Fredrik Backman whose wife is also Iranian and whose situation is also uncertain right now.
Pars says Ove has a direct correlation to what is happening in the world today. “The movie is about this, an Iranian girl coming here from the war. Our film is about how we should see each other and love each other and (changing) stereotypes.”
With regard to Trump’s ban, she continues, “It’s so crazy, but I’m not so surprised. The world is burning.” Pars allows that in that context, “my own problem seems to be very small. There are families that can’t see each other. So, oh, now I can’t go to the Oscars with my dress. It seems so little with what is happening in the world.”
Still, if she ultimately is able to attend, “I think it’s a bigger statement for me to be there as an Iranian, as a Swede, as an actress. And I want to support the film.”
Pars and the team are currently trying to figure out the next steps. She is hoping to get a letter of support from the Swedish government, “So when I get to the airport, I’m not sitting in this room for 10 hours. I don’t know if I get there and something changes again.”
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi made headlines recently when he said even if given special dispensation he would not go to the Oscars where he is nominated in the Foreign Language category for The Salesman. Pars remarks, “I understand him totally. And, he lives in Iran. I can understand you don’t want to go somewhere that somebody told you, ‘We don’t want you here.’ I totally understand and respect his decision. For me, it’s important to stand there and show support. It’s not only about Iran but all people around the world who have different citizenship.”
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