British actor and musician Riz Ahmed has won his very first Oscar!
Short film The Long Goodbye, directed by Aneil Karia, starring Riz Ahmed and written by both, was nominated for best live-action short at the 94th Academy Awards held in Los Angeles, US, on Sunday.
In his acceptance speech, the 39-year-old actor said that “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 Long Goodbye was meant to be a theatre play with rap but due to the spread of Covid-19, it was turned into an online production. Its story revolves around an immigrant family preparing its home for a wedding celebration in Britain. Things take a turn for the worse when a right-wing march spirals out of control and chaos erupts. The short is blisteringly visceral, harrowingly violent and desperately urgent — all in under 12 minutes.
In a previous interview, Ahmed shared that his main inspirations for the production were his parents along with literary icons like Manto and his work Toba Tek Singh. "That short story is really inspiring, because there’s this one person who says that the easy option is to pick a side, but has refused," he said. "It’s important to consider that maybe no man’s land isn’t no man’s land. Maybe it’s ours, because there are so many of us there."
Another piece of work that inspired Ahmed was Shikwa by Allama Iqbal. "The opening track of The Long Goodbye is called 'The Breakup', but an alternative title for it is 'Shikwa', because it’s my complaint to my country — to my homeland, Britain. It’s really lodging my complaints and pleading with her not to end this relationship, or to conduct it differently than the toxic way it’s being conducted today," he said.
Ahmed became the Oscars' first-ever Muslim best actor nominee after Amazon’s Sound of Metal was nominated for six Academy Awards in 2021 — best picture, best actor, best supporting actor, best original screenplay, best editing, and best sound.