When Nazanin Boniadi first participated in protests in her native Tehran, Iran, she was not yet born.
“I was in my mother’s womb,” he explained Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Star while delivering the keynote speech at the Academy Women’s Luncheon presented by the channel on Wednesday. “She was 19 years old and bravely joined tens of thousands of protesters who opposed the newly formed theocracy. My parents realized the dangers of raising girls in a social, political and legal environment that was increasingly oppressive, especially towards women and girls. Although they were granted political asylum in London when I was just three weeks old, in Iran The challenges faced by women are ingrained in my mind.
Boniadi said experiencing the Iranian revolution — at least through the womb — set the stage for a lifetime of activism and has been a passion of advocating for the women of Iran for the past 14 years. But what is happening in the country now after Mahsa Amini’s death, he says, cannot be compared. A 22-year-old woman was arrested by the government’s “morality police” for not wearing a hijab and died under mysterious circumstances. Since September, protests have rocked Iran as residents have challenged the country’s strict moral codes and demanded social change.
“While Iran is accustomed to coups about once every decade, none of the protests in the past compare to the current protests in passion or scale, in which for the first time since the beginning of the theocracy, people are actively fighting to defend themselves against the security forces,” Boniadi explained. “But the most unprecedented part of these protests is that they are led by women.”
The role of women — in activism, art, culture, business and beyond — was a popular topic Wednesday as more than 100 guests sat on the breezy rooftop of the Academy Museum in Los Angeles. The celebration centers on the fifth anniversary of the Academy Gold Fellowship for Women, a program that supports emerging authors.
This year’s awardees Karisma Dubey and Oleksandra Kostina were honored at the event. Academy President Janet Yang and host Marlee Matlin took the stage and gave brief remarks before an audience that included filmmakers and actors like Lucy Boynton. Janicza Bravo, Ruth Carter, Kerry Condon, Claire Foy, Sana Lathan, Leslie Mann, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Maria Schrader, Tessa Thompson, Rita Wilson and more.
Many bold-faced name guests are dressed by Chanel, a house with a deep commitment to film, film events and programs, the Academy’s Gold Fellowship, which focuses on women, a legacy that can be traced back to the house’s founder, the iconic Gabrielle Chanel.
And while a fashionable lunch on an LA rooftop may seem a world away from the uprising in Iran, Boniadi closed her speech with a call to action by requesting that women band together to take their platforms and speak out.
“I cannot help but feel the urgency to join in brotherhood with the women of Iran. We are undoubtedly stronger in achieving our goals when we unite on a global scale,” the actress said, encouraging the audience to amplify the voice of the Iranian people on social media by sharing information from trusted activists and organizations. Protests and networking with Iranian activists.
He continued: “I am asking you, our greater artistic community, will you join us in our struggle for a free Iran? Because we owe it to ourselves to come together and support our creative freedom and amplify our voices.
Boniadi finished speaking and left the stage. As she walked back to her seat, Boniadi was greeted with a standing ovation and hug from Yang and power agent Laurie Bartlett, her representative at CAA, indicating the answer to her question was “yes.”