What Riz Ahmed's Oscar meant for British Asians

Riz Ahmed, British rapper, actor, and film writer, and absurdly talented director, Aneil Karia just won the Oscar for live-action short film with their co-created masterpiece The Long Goodbye. 

What Riz Ahmed's Oscar meant for British Asians

The Long Goodbye was initially released two years ago in 2020 incorporating music from Riz’s album of the same title. The short film follows a South Asian family in London preparing for wedding celebrations just before their street is taken over by a right-wing army, their home is broken into and their family is savaged. 

Rizwan has been an invaluable part of British culture for over 15 years now, making an entrance with his extraordinary single ‘Post 9/11 Blues’ in 2005 – just a year after the 7/7 bombings. Despite not being aired by any TV or radio stations for being “too controversial”, the song made waves for British Asians across the UK. It broached the attitudes toward terrorism, from a perspective that had never been so boldly spoken on. It reminded the public of the position of British Muslims and Asians when it came to terrorism and pulled away, for a moment, from the crude stereotypes plastered on the face of the community across the news. The perspective had never been so uninterrupted and this direct unfiltered point of view has been reflected throughout his career. 

The deeply historic and tragic relationship between Britain and South Asia is impossible to encapsulate in an individual prospect but has left generations of South Asians grappling with the responsibility to navigate their fractured identities silently and alone. Riz has played a crucial role in bringing these detrimental attitudes, rupturing British society, to the surface through his albums, since 2011. 

South Asians are British history and Riz’s art reminds us, brutally, of our place in the UK. With mainstream news, music, and film, unable to break free from their sweltering biases he has persistently managed to make room for the Asian and Muslim communities at the most unwelcoming times. 

Being one of the very few British Pakistani able to carve himself a space in the arts Rizwan bears an incredibly weighted responsibility to obliterate the narrative surrounding Asians and Muslims in film and music. 

Watching his career progress from playing a terrorist in the Chris Morris-directed movie, Four Lions, to producing the triple Oscar-nominated documentary Flee in a matter of a few short years, Asians of all generations have had stakes in his projects. Hence, Riz winning the Oscar last night was a pivotal point for Britain. It was a mark against the decades of misrepresentation, harmful stereotypes, and typecasts. It was hope for a more realistic depiction of what British culture truly constitutes. 

The vast population of British South Asians and our role in the arts were represented at the Oscars last night to a level never witnessed before. Riz’s role has been crucial to the South Asian voice and his Oscar victory marks a milestone for Britain's growth. 

Header Image Credit: Getty Images

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