[guest post by Dana]
I boycotted last night’s awards ceremony due to the Academy’s decision to once again refuse President Zelensky’s request to speak to viewers via video. With millions upon millions of viewers worldwide, Zelensky would have been able to reach an enormous audience and remind the world why it is imperative that Russia be defeated and expelled from Ukraine, all of Ukraine, and how said the defeat would benefit the world at large. Zelensky, who has addressed a number of audiences at prominent cultural events (via video), said during the Golden Globes in January:
“It is now 2023 the war in Ukraine is not over yet but the tide is turning. And it is already clear who will win. There are still battles and tears ahead, but now I can definitely tell you who are the best in the previous year, it was you. The free people of the free world. Those who united around the support of the free Ukrainian people in our common struggle for freedom….We will make it together with a whole, free world, and I hope that all of you will be with us on the victorious day – the day of our victory. Slava Ukraini.
While no explanation was provided for this year’s snub, Variety reported that “…the Academy traditionally prefers to focus on the contributions of the filmmaking community and steer clear of anything political.” Oh…
Clearly, the Academy can’t help itself because, contrary to the assertion that the Academy prefers to avoid anything political, actor Donnie Yen, a new member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), was selected to introduce Best Original Song nominee ‘This Is A Life’ from Everything Everywhere All at Once. Despite a petition signed by more than 100,000 people demanding the Oscars Committee “cancel the invitation of Donnie Yen as a presenter for the Oscars,” Yen remained in the lineup. As CNN previously reported:
Describing Yen as a “supporter of the Chinese Communist regime,” the online petition points to several statements it claims ought to disqualify Yen from involvement in the 95th Academy Awards, which will be held on March 13.
One example listed was a profile published last week in GQ, in which Yen discussed the large and occasionally violent pro-democracy demonstrations that gripped Hong Kong throughout 2019.
“It wasn’t a protest, okay, it was a riot,” Yen told GQ of the demonstrations, which were ultimately suppressed by mass arrests and the introduction of a sweeping national security law by Beijing.
Last weekend, Yen was seen in attendance at a key Communist Party meeting in Beijing as part of an advisory body on arts and culture.
Speaking to press at the event, Yen said more Chinese action movies were needed to “become the pride of China” and “tell the story of China,” according to state-run Global Times.
He was previously criticized after performing next to Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2017, an event Yen called a “great honor,” and for celebrating Hong Kong’s return “to motherland China” in 2020 on the anniversary of the city’s handover.
Way to go, Academy! It just doesn’t get more apolitical than selecting a member of the CPPCC to be on stage at the Academy Awards ceremony while denying a few minutes to the president of a pro-democracy country who is courageously fighting a brutal common enemy whose victory would undoubtedly pose an enormous threat to the free world!
There were, however, two positive political moments during the ceremony. “Navalny,” the stellar documentary which exposes Putin’s attempted assassination and subsequent imprisonment of freedom-fighter Alexie Navalny, won Best Documentary.
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) March 13, 2023
It was equally terrific to see the courageous Christo Grozev, who was pivotal in exposing the evil machinations of the Kremlin, honored during the acceptance speech. After the awards ceremony, Grozev offered his observations of the Academy Awards:
“The Academy Award is pragmatically useful. Now the film will be watched by at least another 20 million people.
This means that viewers will be exposed to the facts that we present in this film – Russia has a program to kill and eliminate its own citizens, anyone who has the courage to go against the authorities or run for president.”
And about Zelensky not being able to address the worldwide audience, Grozev said, “A large part of the things that Zelensky would say, we said them.”
Another righteous political statement was made by Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, who fled Iran during the revolution. She voiced her support for women in Iran in a unique way. Explaining her elegantly subtle but powerful form of messaging, Aghdashloo said:
I was so happy to be invited [to the Oscars], but what crossed my mind is that this was a chance to take the case of the Iranian freedom fighters to the ultimate platform of arts and sciences…I knew I wanted to wear something that would include the slogan of Iran’s freedom fighters — ‘Women, Life, Freedom’ — as they continue what’s one of the biggest human-rights efforts in history.
I think she was successful in her efforts (click on the photo):
The custom-made “Woman Life Freedom” gown is championing the women of Iran.
— Shohreh Aghdashloo (@SAghdashloo) March 13, 2023
(Embroidered on her gown are the names of three young women killed during the protests in the “Women, Life, Freedom” movement.)
Anyway, my hope is that next year there will be no need for President Zelensky to make yet a third request to the Academy because Ukraine will have already been victorious.