Pakistan-origin Riz Ahmed, a British actor and musician, received his first Academy Award for a live-action short film he co-wrote and starred in, The Long Goodbye, becoming him the first Muslim person to do so in the history of the Academy Awards.
“In such divided times, we feel the duty of the tale is to remind us there is no ‘we’ and ‘them,'” Ahmed, 39, said in his acceptance speech. “It’s simply ‘we.'” This is for anyone who doesn’t feel like they belong. Anyone who feels like they’re in the middle of nowhere. You’re not the only one who feels this way. We’ll be waiting for you there. That is where the future can be found. Peace.”
Last year, Ahmed, who was born in London to Pakistani parents, was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as a hearing-impaired drummer in Sound of Metal, but lost to Anthony Hopkins.
The Long Goodbye features music from Ahmed’s same-named album, which was released in 2021 and reflects on his identity as a British-Pakistani musician.
The film depicts a south Asian family in suburban London whose plans for a celebration are disrupted by news reports of an all-white militia knocking on their door shortly after.
This is the first time in the live-action short category that someone of Asian heritage has won.
Last year, Ahmed was nominated for best actor alongside Steven Yuen in the same category, marking the first time two Asian males were nominated in the same category.
After a survey revealed that Muslims are rarely seen in movies and are depicted in a negative light when they are, Ahmed initiated an attempt last year to improve the way Muslims are depicted in them. He stated that the Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion would involve funding and coaching for Muslim storytellers who are just starting out.
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