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Travel ban has made artists activists: Oscar chief

The divisive political climate in the United States hung over the Oscar nominees luncheon on Monday as Academy Awards president Cheryl Boone Isaacs called for tolerance and freedom of expression.

"Today we celebrate you, your work and your achievement, but each and every one of us knows that there are some empty chairs in this room, which has made Academy artists activists," Ms Isaacs told some 160 Oscar nominees attending the annual affair in Beverly Hills.

She was referring to artists expected to miss this year's Academy Awards as a result of President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

A federal court has suspended the decree for now.

"There is a struggle today over artistic freedom that feels more urgent than at any time since the 1950s," she said to loud applause.

"We stand up in support of artists around the world, we stand up to those who would try and limit our freedom of expression and we stand up for this fundamental principle: That all creative artists around the world are connected by that unbreakable bond and more powerful than nationality and politics."

Among artists affected by the travel ban are Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, nominated for best foreign language film for The Salesman.

Also set to miss the ceremony are the subjects of The White Helmets, a documentary about the volunteers who rescue victims in war-torn Syria.

The 89th Academy Awards will be held on Feb 26 in Los Angeles. - AFP

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