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Directors of all five Oscar-nominated foreign-language films band together to offer ‘emphatic disapproval’ of nationalism

‘Toni Erdmann’
A scene from Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann.”
(Sony Pictures Classics)

Why wait for Sunday to make a statement?

Directors of the five Oscar-nominated foreign-language films have gotten a jump on what is expected to be a flood of political remarks at the upcoming Academy Awards, issuing a statement Friday that condemned nationalist politics and dedicated the prize to those who fight against them.

“On behalf of all nominees, we would like to express our unanimous and emphatic disapproval of the climate of fanaticism and nationalism we see today in the U.S. and in so many other countries, in parts of the population and, most unfortunately of all, among leading politicians,” the statement began.

“Regardless of who wins the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film on Sunday,” the statement continued, “we refuse to think in terms of borders. We believe there is no best country, best gender, best religion or best color. We want this award to stand as a symbol of the unity between nations and the freedom of the arts,” adding: “Human rights are not something you have to apply for. They simply exist — for everybody.”

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It also said the prize, whoever won it, would be regarded as a tribute to those who are lobbying for these values. “We dedicate this award to all the people, artists, journalists and activists who are working to foster unity and understanding, and who uphold freedom of expression and human dignity — values whose protection is now more important than ever,” it said. The statement did not mention Donald Trump by name.

The letter was signed by the directors of the five nominated films — Martin Zandvliet (Denmark’s “Land of Mine”), Hannes Holm (Sweden’s “A Man Called Ove”), Martin Butler and Bentley Dean (Australia’s “Tanna”), Asghar Farhadi’s (Iran’s “The Salesman”) and Maren Ade (Germany’s “Toni Erdmann”). It represented an unusual move. It’s rare for all the nominees of a given category to band together, let alone before the ceremony.

Farhadi had previously made his own statement of sorts by saying he wouldn’t attend the Oscars in protest of Trump’s ban on some travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, including his native Iran. He is instead attending a screening of his film in London.

With a diverse set of backgrounds, foreign-language directors are expected to be some of the most vocal personalities Sunday about the new administration. Some of their home countries have been grappling with the rise of nationalism as well.

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Most of the films are not explicitly political, though “Land of Mine” does explore national tensions in Europe in the days after World War II.

Full coverage: Oscars 2017 »

steve.zeitchik@latimes.com

Twitter: @ZeitchikLAT

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