Even without the recent flare-up of the Trump Muslim ban and the natural, humanist instinct to respond to that, Asghar Farhadi‘s The Salesman should be — is — the clear favorite among the Best Foreign Language feature nominees. Farhadi can’t help but exude brilliance, such that even a respectably midrange effort like The Salesman (which, despite its admirably unhurried pacing, subtle plot turns and fascinating social undercurrents, isn’t quite the equal of A Separation or The Past) is clearly superior to the other four nominees — Toni Erdmann, Land of Mine, A Man Called Ove, Tanna. On top of which we have had the attempted Muslim travel ban (thankfully neutered by the courts), and…well, what other choice in the wake of that?

From my 5.21.16 Cannes review: “What makes Asghar Farhadi‘s The Salesman so absorbing is that most of the reactions to the attack upon Rana — rage, shock, suspicion, confusion, bitterness, territoriality, a plan of revenge — happen within. Only Emad’s search for the attacker is acknowledged. Everything else is smothered.

“Especially in Eman’s case. His wife has been attacked but just as importantly (to him) his man-of-the-house pride has been wounded and he wants his vengeance. On one hand he’s obviously justified in wanting to punish his wife’s assailant, but this isn’t a Liam Neeson thing — it’s a matter of Iranian machismo.

“The three Farhadi films that everyone has seen and admired (A Separation, About Elly, The Past) are part whodunits and part suspense stories. His method is to unpeel the evidence bit by bit, and with no great haste. He’s no slowboat, but he always reveals the particulars and especially the motives of his characters at a natural, gradual pace, knowing that viewers will hang in there and put it all together. But Farhadi takes it step by step, and is more into revealing than showing.”

Posted on 1.31.17 by Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn: “Before the Trump Administration banned all Iranian citizens for 30 days, Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman was a thrilling, intelligent look at the aftermath of a traumatic event. Now, it’s an essential one.

“While awards season is a glittering distraction from the real world, it’s also an international platform, and Farhadi has wisely used this opportunity to take a stand. He’s not the first: Michael Moore famously spoke out against the Iraq war when he won the Oscar for Bowling for Columbine, and Marlon Brando sent Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather in his place when he won for The Godfather to protest the depiction of Native Americans in film.

“But Farhadi’s decision further highlights the reasons why The Salesman actually deserves to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Not only is it one of the strongest entries in this category, but it’s also the most relevant.”

Reported by The Guardian‘s Nadia Khomami on Tuesday, 2.14: “The mayor of London will join some of the leading names in British film at a free premiere screening of the Oscar-nominated The Salesman, the Iranian director of which was affected by Donald Trump’s travel ban.

“During Academy Awards night on 26 February, Trafalgar Square will be transformed into London’s biggest open-air cinema for the first UK showing of Asghar Farhadi’s drama, hours before the Oscars are handed out in Hollywood.

“Leading names from the British film industry, including the Palme d’Or-winning director Mike Leigh, will address an expected audience of up to 10,000 people in central London. The announcement comes after actors and filmmakers including Julie Christie, Kevin Macdonald, Keira Knightley, Ridley Scott and Terry Gilliam wrote to the Duke of Westminster to ask for permission to hold a screening outside the US embassy to protest against the US president’s ban on visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.”