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Mahershala Ali accepts the award for best supporting actor

How political activism took centre stage at the Oscars

Bans, blue ribbons, and boycotts

To no one’s surprise, last night’s Academy Awards was one of the most politically charged in recent memory. Coming just a month after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the focus was on the future – with many nominees and winners worrying over what was to come. The president’s fragile ego, obsessive tweeting and flagrant racism were all widely scorned, as was his notorious travel ban on immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. Fortunately, despite all this, the ceremony felt mostly celebratory, with the Academy showing the clear steps it had taken to diversify. Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim to ever win an Oscar, Moonlight won best picture, and Viola Davis scooped best supporting actress for Fences. In case you missed it, here are some of the other major moments:


Asghar Farhadi made arguably the most powerful statement of the evening, using his acceptance speech to slam Donald Trump’s “inhumane” travel ban. The Iranian director, who secured the best foreign language picture award for The Salesman, chose to boycott the ceremony – choosing instead to have Iranian-born US engineer and astronaut Anousheh Ansari accept on his behalf. “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 US,” his acceptance statement read. “Dividing the world into the US and 'our enemies' categories creates fear. A deceitful justification for aggression and war.”

“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.”


Jimmy Kimmel also took some swipes at Trump. “Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars was racist?” he joked in his opening monologue. “This broadcast is being watched live by millions of Americans and around the world in more than 225 countries that now hate us. The country is divided right now.” 

The host went on to mock Trump’s bewildering obsessions with fake news, tweeting and Meryl Streep – sarcastically introducing the 20-time Oscar nominee as “highly overrated” and urging the audience to give her an “undeserved” round of applause. He went on to encourage winners to make anti-Trump speeches that the president would “tweet about in all caps during his 5am bowel movement tomorrow”.

“There are millions and millions of people watching right now, and if every one of you took a minute to reach out to one person you disagree with and have a positive, considerate conversation – not as liberals or conservatives but as Americans – if we all did that it would make America great again,” Kimmel added hopefully. “It starts with us.”


Both Emma Stone and Dakota Johnson pledged their support for Planned Parenthood yesterday, wearing pins promoting the non-profit organisation on their dresses and bags. The move was presumably a response to Trump’s plans to defund the healthcare service – which provides abortions, contraception and cancer screening services for women in the US. 


Orlando Von Einsiedel’s searing documentary on the Syrian humanitarian crisis, The White Helmets, scooped the award for best short documentary. Unfortunately, both Raed Saleh and Khaled Khatib – who starred in and shot the project – were unable to attend the ceremony. This was due to the high intensity of the Syrian airstrikes rather than Trump’s travel ban, as both had apparently secured US visas before the event. 

“We are so grateful that this film has highlighted our work to the world,” Saleh's statement said. “Our organisation is guided by a verse from the Quran: to save one life is to save all of humanity.”

“We have saved more than 82,000 Syrian lives. I invite anyone here who hears me to work on the side of life to stop the bloodshed in Syria and around the world.”


As well as the Planned Parenthood pins, many attendees – including Ruth Negga, Karlie Kloss and Moonlight director Barry Jenkins – were seen wearing blue ribbons on the red carpet. The pins symbolised support for the American Civil Liberties Union: an initiative that defends and protects the individual rights of US citizens.


In yet another dig at Trump, Alessandro Bertolazzi used his acceptance speech to praise immigrants and slam the travel ban. The Italian makeup artist, who won for his work on Suicide Squad, was met with a rapturous round of applause in the closing seconds of his speech. “I’m from Italy, I work around the world,” he said. “This is for all the immigrants.”