Moonlight actor Mahershala Ali decided not to attend the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) 2017 awards ceremony on Sunday night (12Feb17) because of America’s ‘Muslim ban’.
Director Barry Jenkins revealed his Moonlight cast member opted out of attending the prestigious awards event, because of fears that he might struggle to re-enter the U.S. upon his return.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month (27Jan17), which barred citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering America. On Thursday (09Feb17) a panel of three federal judges in America’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to uphold the temporary suspension of Trump’s travel order, dubbed the ‘Muslim-ban’ by critics, but as a soon-to-be first-time father, Mahershala, who is married to artist Amatus Sami-Karim, decided not to take any chances.
“Mahershala Shabazz Ali did not come to the BAFTAs because he has a child on the way, his first child,” Jenkins explained at a Q&A at the Ritzy Picturehouse Cinema in Brixton, London, on Monday (13Feb17). “And I imagine because his name is Mahershala Shabazz Ali, he’s openly a Muslim, that he decided maybe it’s safer to stay home to make sure he was there to witness the birth of his first child.”
“So because of what’s going on in the world today, I cannot be passive, that’s just not an option for me,” he added.
Barry made his comments as he spoke about his motivation for making the critically-acclaimed movie, explaining it grew out of a decision he made to be an active ally with his work as a filmmaker.
“Every queer film I’ve seen doesn’t feature any people of colour, here is a struggle that exists that no one is making art about, at least art that I had seen in the community but I hadn’t seen it out in the mainstream,” he explained to the audience after the screening. “It was the first time that I got sensitive to the issue and I’m a person that feels that I’m an ally to LBGT causes, yet I’d never had a character in any of my work that identified as LGBTQ.
“I’m glad the movie exists right now in this state where it seems like that all of our movies all of our social, civil and financial liberties are under attack and I hope, what I see is, no matter what the condition is, we gotta keep making the true, authentic work that we’re talking about.”
Mahershala was nominated in the category for Best Supporting Actor, among the four awards Moonlight was up for at Sunday’s ceremony, including a Best Director nod for Jenkins – but the movie failed to land any awards.