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Riz Ahmed: Oscar actor, alternative musician and bulwark of diversity

2021-07-28T04:02:10.972Z

The first Muslim nominee for the statuette for the best leading actor claims in 'Mogul Mowgli' a vision of cinema and narrative beyond the western perspective



Riz Ahmed, on April 25, at the Oscars.Matt Petit / Getty Images

For years, Riz Ahmed has told a newspaper everything. His records, his travels and, especially, each of his films and experiences on the set. Not even in its most intimate pages, however, the actor and musician imagined a moment as sweet as the one he is experiencing. Appearances in

Nightcrawler

and

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

; the Emmy for

The Night Of.

And, above all, the role of Ruben Stone, a drummer who is losing his hearing in

Sound of Metal

. It took him this year to debut as a nominee for the Golden Globes and Oscars, with a record included: the first Muslim to compete for the award for best leading actor. His life is filled with successes, and with it also his diaries. Although, recently, Ahmed (London, 38 years old) re-read annotations from the past and discovered that his thoughts had not changed much: “10 years ago he wrote the same thing: for example, that growth is a spiral, it is not linear”, explains by video call.

The last corner, now, has taken him to

Mogul Mowgli

, the film that is released this Saturday at Filmin. And that bears certain similarities to the role that placed him one step away from the Oscar: he plays Zed, a British rapper of Pakistani origin who begins to suffer attacks from an autoimmune disease just before the tour that should consecrate his career. Although Ahmed prefers to highlight another aspect of the film: “With Bessam [Tariq, the director], we wanted to do something really honest about our experience and tell it in a way that has not been seen before. We try to show our own vision, black and Asian, on integration, Islam, mythology, spirituality or narrative. We put in a lot of ourselves, it was a creative liberation ”.

Hence, they mixed English and Urdu, moments of comedy and almost horror, the most implacable realism, but also the magic. The film's own visual style was intended to go its way. A trip to Pakistan, to the depths of his roots, helped the director and actor meet his film. Ahmed, of course, says that this was reflected in his diary. And a long visit to the collection of Islamic art at the Met in New York reinforced his intention to follow his instincts and his ancestors. Also, of course, from his own existence: Ahmed's parents are Pakistani and he has composed several of the film's musical themes, as well as being a member of the hip-hop duo Swet Shop Boys. They also found studies that affirm that diaspora communities are more likely to develop autoimmune diseases.

“It is that we are exactly the character that you never see on the screen. We play any role, except ourselves ”, defends the actor. Not for nothing, Ahmed has raised money for Syrian refugees, publicly criticized Islamophobia or demanded that movies and series go beyond the heterosexual Caucasian man. “When we stop representing the people, turn off the television or stop voting. […] Every time you see yourself in a magazine, a poster, on TV or in a movie, it is a message that you matter, that you are part of national history, that they value you, ”he stated in 2017 in a speech before the Lower House of the British Parliament.

As a result of that defense of inclusion, the Riz Test has even emerged, inspired by that of the cartoonist Alisson Bechdel, which tests how cinema mistreats women. In this case, if a film includes a Muslim character and he speaks of terrorism, he is shown as irrationally angry, superstitious and retrograde, he is presented as a threat to the Western way of life and he is misogynistic - in the case of a man - or submissive - for women - the note is a clear failure.

Mogul Mowgli

, of course, is the exception that he highly approves of.

“I am an actor and I can only represent my

performance.

But I am aware that more people can be reflected and if it happens I celebrate it. Culture is a mirror in which we all want to see ourselves, ”adds Ahmed about the relevance of breaking the mold at the Oscars as a Muslim. Although precisely for that reason, because of his

underground

music

or his activism, it is difficult to imagine him comfortable at the great Hollywood party. “I ran into Gary Oldman and he told me that we all experience imposter syndrome. And maybe it's not so bad to feel like maybe you don't belong there, be it because of your gender, your sexuality, your race or your background. Although at the same time, at the gala, I thought I should have felt like an intruder but I looked around and saw many like me. Maybe something is changing, ”he explains.

In his career, yes, he maintains that the candidacy has not changed much. “They are external things, and life is unpredictable. You cannot imagine what people will say, if you will have more or less work, critics or fans. But the nomination does encourage me to make choices out of creative curiosity instead of looking for something that is good for my career, "he says. Although the interpreter believes that the stages of his journey always teach him something: “The idea behind the performance is that we are all in each one of us. Testing the life of another expands who you are. The characters stay with you. And finding one opens a door for you that then allows another to enter ”. It is the spiral of life and cinema. His diary knows it well.

Source: elparis

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