London’s mayor Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan says screening Iran Oscar contender celebrates diversity

Evening Standard|Sadiq Khan: The world is an increasingly turbulent and divided place. After Brexit, President Trump and the continued rise of populist politics – it often seems like there is more that divides than unities us.

But, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

For those of us who believe in community, internationalism, and celebrating our differences, our response to these new challenges has to be a renewed focus and celebration of what unites us.

It’s up to us to prove that the best answer to economic change is openness rather than isolationism.

To prove that community is stronger when we encourage diversity. And to prove that the best way of achieving our ambitions is by working together, in solidarity with people of open hearts and open minds across the world.

And on Sunday, in London, we will be doing just that by hosting a free public screening in Trafalgar Square of the Oscar-nominated film The Salesman, which is in the running to win best foreign language film.

Directed and produced by Asghar Farhadi – an Academy Award-winner and legend of Iranian cinema – the film is being shown the same night as the Oscars ceremony on the other side of the Atlantic.

Sadly, Farhadi, who had originally planned to attend the ceremony, will not be there because he was one of those affected by President Trump’s attempts to ban citizens of seven Muslim majority counties from entering the US.

While Farhadi’s absence at the Oscars is a great shame, I’m proud that we will be staging the UK public premiere of his latest work.

This will not only be a celebration of film and the power of great cinema, but a celebration of London – who we are as a city, our culture and our amazing creative industries.

Above all, it will be a great opportunity to showcase how London is an international hub of creativity and a global beacon for openness and diversity.

London’s culture and creative industries are a crucial part of the capital’s economy and identity, and we should remember that our city’s success has always relied on talented, creative and innovative people from around the world coming to live and work here.

From film to fashion, dance to design, our culture adds so much value to the lives of millions of Londoners and, in many ways, is the embodiment of how London is open to the world.

When I speak before the screening in Trafalgar Square, I plan to make clear that, just as everyone can enjoy the beauty of a great film, everyone is welcome in London regardless of their faith, nationality or background.

At times like these, it is important that we stand in solidarity with people like Farhadi, as well as with citizens from around the world who are affected by any form of discrimination based solely on their religion, country of origin, or birthplace.

History teaches us that countries, societies and economies that are open and outward-looking are not only culturally richer, but perform better economically.

No-one would dispute that London’s success over many hundreds of years has been underpinned by its openness to trade and business and its welcoming attitude to pioneering people.

While intolerance and division might be on the rise in some parts of the world, unity knows no borders.

And in London, I’m proud that we are open to those from all corners of the world, regardless of the colour of their skin, the colour of their passports or the colour of their national flags.