It’s been an unprecedented 12 months in American politics thanks to the election of Donald Trump, and tonight’s Oscars ceremony was – unsurprisingly – politically charged. The winners of this year’s Academy Awards couldn’t resist taking the opportunity on stage to make reference to the new US president who was sworn into office just over a month ago.
Host Jimmy Kimmel had said ahead of tonight’s ceremony that he hoped winners wouldn’t come with a “script” prepared for their big moment on stage: “I hope people are selective and that they don’t come in with a script they are planning to read if they win and that people just speak from the heart and spontaneously – and if that’s what want to speak about, great. But you’d just hate to see someone delivering a ‘speech,'” he told Uproxx.
Nevertheless, the acting royalty seated inside Los Angeles’ Dolby theatre were no doubt prepared for a political evening as this year’s winners picked up their prestigious golden statuettes. We’ve gathered together some of the night’s most political moments below, updated as they happen:
Even before the ceremony kicked off, things got political. Speaking on the red carpet about the foreign Oscars nominees who had been banned from the ceremony, Lion actor Dev Patel told Sky: “We are here and we’re talking about a film that is about unification, so that makes me happy. But my heart does go out to the people who couldn’t be here today.”
Syrian cinematographer Khaled Khatib and Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi were both denied entry to the US.
As a first-time Oscars host, Jimmy Kimmel was a bit of an unknown quantity – but he launched straight in with some clever digs at President Trump.
After urging viewers to have some honest conversations “not as liberals or conservatives, as Americans,” Kimmel turned the spotlight onto Meryl Streep, introducing an actress who “has stood the test of time for her many underrated and uninspiring performances” in a reference to the US president’s tweet last month – a response to Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes.
He added: “Nice dress by the way, is that an Ivanka?”
After predicting that Trump will tweet about the Oscars in capital letters in the course of his early-morning bowel movement tomorrow (likely), Kimmel played on the #OscarSoWhite debate, quipping: “I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist? I mean, come on!”
Suicide Squad’s Alessandro Bertolazzi
Suicide Squad, against the odds, is now an Oscar-winner, taking home the gong for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. And as he took to the stage, winner Alessandro Bertolazzi – who hails from Italy – made reference to Trump’s anti-immigration policies, dedicating his statuette to “all the immigrants”:
“I’m an immigrant – I come from Italy – and I work around the world. And this is for all the immigrants.”
Last year’s Best Supporting Actor winner Mark Rylance appealed for respectful opposition, saying: “Opposition’s great in film and stories, it’s wonderful in sport, it’s really good in society. The things these films made me remember and think about was the difficulty – something women seem to be better at than men – of opposing without hatred.”
Cheryl Boone Isaacs
Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs gave a heartfelt speech about the importance of diversity in the arts.
“Tonight is proof that art has no borders, no single language and does not belong to a single faith,” she said. “The power of art is that it transcends all these things.”
She added that no matter where filmmakers come from they, they all “speak to the human condition.”
Gabriel Garcia Bernal
Mexican actor Gabriel Garcia Bernal was on stage with actress Hailee Steinfeld to present the two animated categories but he wasn’t going to let an opportunity slip to mention that wall Donald Trump is determined to build.
“As a Mexican, as a Latin-American, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I am against any form of wall,” he said, before reading out the nominees, prompting a round of applause from the audience.
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for The Salesman – but in the wake of Trump’s travel ban, he wrote a letter explaining why he wasn’t there.
“I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight,” he wrote. “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.”
After Trump’s so-called Muslim ban came into effect, prohibiting entry for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, Farhadi abandoned plans to travel to the ceremony.
In his Academy Awards acceptance speech, he continued: “Dividing the world into the us and our enemies categories creates fear – a deceitful justification for aggression and war. These laws prevent democracy in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression. 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.”
The White Helmets
Raed Saleh, leader of the White Helmets, who featured in the eponymous Oscar-winning documentary short, was unable to leave his work as head of a group of Syrian voluntary rescue workers and attend this year’s ceremony due to the high intensity of air strikes. But he had some important words for viewers, read out by the film’s director Orlando von Einsiedel: “Work on the side of life,” he said, “stop the bloodshed in Syria and around the world. Just stand up and remind them that we all care that this war ends as quickly as possible.”
Watch the Oscars live with a Now TV Sky Cinema month pass for £9.99