Volodymyr Zelensky has been warmly welcomed by various awards shows, film festivals, and even the New York Stock Exchange over the past year.
However, despite hoping to make a virtual appearance on Sunday’s Oscar telecast on ABC, the Ukrainian leader has been ignored by the Academy for the second year in a row.
Although WME power agent Mike Simpson made a plea to the Academy to include Zelensky, he was rejected, and the Academy declined to comment.
Zelensky’s attempts to be a part of the Oscars occur amidst polls showing a decrease in American support for providing aid to Ukraine.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Zelensky has made remote appearances via satellite at several events, including the Cannes and Venice film festivals, the Grammy Awards, and the ringing of the Opening Bell of the New York Stock Exchange in September.
During the Golden Globes in January, Sean Penn introduced Zelensky, who repeated his message from the past year, that Ukraine will emerge victorious in the war against Russia, and praised the “free people of the free world” for their support of Ukraine.
Simpson, who represents Aaron Kaufman, co-director of the Zelensky documentary “Superpower” alongside Sean Penn, became involved in the Oscars situation. The documentary premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February.
During press events for the film, Penn urged the U.S. government to increase its military support for Ukraine, including the delivery of long-range precision missiles. In December, Zelensky visited the U.S. to meet with President Biden and urge Congress to send more military aid to Ukraine.
However, not everyone is in favor of giving Zelensky more airtime. Last year, Oscars producer Will Packer rejected a Zelensky appearance, expressing concerns that Hollywood’s attention to Ukraine was due to those affected by the conflict being white, while ignoring conflicts affecting people of color around the world.
Packer did not comment on the matter. This year, it is unclear why the Academy rejected Zelensky’s appearance, but traditionally, they prefer to focus on the contributions of the film industry and avoid political matters.
Meanwhile, the Academy isn’t the only group to refuse Zelensky. In September, Zelensky’s team reached out to the Toronto Film Festival about the leader appearing via satellite, but they were denied. A TIFF spokesperson said at the time that the festival “does not comment on discussions with dignitaries, government officials or international embassies.” The spokesperson added that the festival “stands in solidarity with Ukranians both here at home and abroad and is proud to showcase the depth and creativity of Ukrainian filmmakers at this year’s festival.”
Zelensky’s team has recently engaged the services of Simpson, a representative of renowned directors Quentin Tarantino and Bong Joon Ho, to reach out to the Golden Globes and the Academy in an effort to gain more airtime for Zelensky.
While the Golden Globes accepted the proposal and allowed several minutes of airtime for Zelensky, the Academy was not interested. Interestingly, Simpson’s son Tommy collaborated with Ukrainian actress-pop singer Tina Karol on a song for “Superpower.”
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