LONDON: Pakistan-origin British actor and musician Riz Ahmed won his first Oscar for a live-action short film — The Long Goodbye, which he co-wrote and starred in — becoming the first Muslim to win this category in the history of Academy Awards.
In his acceptance speech, Ahmed, 39, said: “In such divided times, we believe that the role of story is to remind us there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’. There’s just ‘us’.
“This is for everyone who feels like they don’t belong. Anyone who feels like they’re stuck in no man’s land. You’re not alone. We’ll meet you there. That’s where the future is. Peace.”
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) March 28, 2022
Ahmed, who was born in London to parents from Pakistan, was nominated for an Oscar last year for his role as a hearing-impaired drummer in Sound of Metal, losing out to Anthony Hopkins.
The Long Goodbye incorporates music from Ahmed’s album of the same name, which was released in 2021 and reflects on his identity as a British-Pakistan artist.
The film shows a south Asian family in suburban London whose preparations for celebration are interrupted by news reports of an all-white militia, who soon afterwards knock on their door.
The win marks the first time someone of Asian descent has triumphed in the live-action short category.
Ahmed’s nomination last year alongside Steven Yuen in the same category, was the first time two Asian men had been both nominated for best actor.
IMPROVE IMAGE OF MUSLIMS IN HOLLYWOOD
Last year, Ahmed launched an effort to improve the way Muslims are depicted in movies after a study showed that they are barely seen and shown in a negative light when they do appear.
He said the Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion would include funding and mentoring for Muslim storytellers in the early stages of their careers.
“The representation of Muslims on screen feeds the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed, the countries that get invaded,” Ahmed said in a statement.
“The data doesn’t lie. This study shows us the scale of the problem in popular film, and its cost is measured in lost potential and lost lives,” he added.
— With input from Reuters