Australian director George Miller has thrown his support behind acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi who is boycotting the Academy Awards in protest at President Donald Trump's visa ban on citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations.
"It's just madness," he says. "It's irrational craziness that seems to be affecting the United States and the rest of the world."
This time a year ago, Miller was headed to the Oscars with 10 nominations for Mad Max: Fury Road, which won six. Now he has backed the Oscar-winning Iranian filmmaker Farhadi who has announced he will not attend the awards because of the 90-day entry ban on citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, even if he is granted an exemption.
In a statement, Fahadi said: "I hereby express my condemnation of the unjust conditions forced upon some of my compatriots and the citizens of the other six countries trying to legally enter the United States of America and hope that the current situation will not give rise to further divide between nations."
Miller chaired the jury at last year's Cannes Film Festival that gave two awards to Fahadi's film The Salesman – best screenplay and best actor – which is nominated for best foreign-language film. He won the same Oscar for A Separation five years ago.
The Australian filmmaker called Farhadi "a great artist" and praised his stand in support of fellow Iranian citizens. One of the film's stars, Taraneh Alidoosti, has also announced she won't attend the Oscars on February 26 in protest.
"lt's just surreal and nuts when you've got such a great filmmaker who has had his own issues with his own government," Miller says. "What he said was perfectly put. I – and I imagine so many others – would support that.
"He's a high-profile Iranian and a great artist but what about the people who are more invisible? It's everybody else caught up as well. All I can say is it's madness and I think there's going to be more to come."
Miller was speaking after being announced as a jury member of a very different festival, Tropfest, next week. He will join jury chair Rose Byrne and fellow judges Sam Neill, Bruna Papandrea and Rachel Perkins at Parramatta Park on February 11.
"They're different in the sense of the scale of the movies but the excitement is the same," Miller says. "For a filmmaker, there's nothing better than to watch other films then discuss with people with like minds what you think of them then try to make some decision as to which may or may not be better.
"I've been a judge before many, many years ago. So to do it again is just great fun and the films are always interesting."
Miller believes the iconic short film festival, which collapsed in late 2015 before being revived early last year when a new sponsor signed up, remains a leading platform for emerging filmmaking talent.
"Quite honestly, it is the best way for talent to emerge," he says. "It's a well-spring of filmmaking more than any other I can think of."
Miller says Tropfest has fostered so many filmmakers who have gone on to have successful careers because of its "Darwinian" nature.
"It brings out the self-starters," he says. "There's a certain quality to people who have enduring careers in the industry is that they're self-initiators, self-starters. They're not relying on anybody else to hold their hand."
On his own filmmaking plans, Miller is guarded about whether his next project would be a planned smaller film or two more Mad Max instalments.
"I've got two or three things," he says. "One of them is small and the others are bigger."
The story George Miller backs Asghar Farhadi's Oscars boycott first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.