Aneil Karia directed "The Long Goodbye", starring Riz Ahmed, and was written by both. It is up for the best live-action short at Sunday's Academy Awards. The film's first scene is very naturalistic. It follows the preparations for a South Asian family living in suburban England. These concerns are not new. The place where a chair should be. Who wrote "Blinded By the Light"?
Ahmed, however, sees through the windows of unmarked vans carrying masked white militants. Everyday life is disrupted violently. Soon, they begin to arrest people and execute them. The scene ends in a terrifying monologue by Ahmed while he is walking down the street. He cites from his song "Where You From", which is a passionate testimony to cross-cultural identity.
Ahmed said into the camera, "Now everyone everywhere wants their country back." "Bruv, if you want me to go back to my roots, then I need a map."
To Ahmed, "The Long Goodbye", is streaming on YouTube. shares his fears and draws from current clashes between immigrants and migrants against rising tides of nationalism.
"Post-Brexit Britain felt a rising drumbeat of fear and xenophobia. It started to feel a bit deafening. It gets to the point that you have to grab someone to say, "Do you hear that?" Is this what you are feeling? Ahmed spoke from London recently to say that he was having panic attacks. "Aneil wanted to tell an urgent story about this, to share our feelings, to uncover our nightmares, and to put them out there into the world.
The scenes in "The Long Goodbye," seem more like what might happen in remote corners of the world. Ahmed says that the film captures both the emotional reality of people living in increasingly divided Western democracies and what is happening on the ground in other parts.
"Really, this story is in our psyches. Ahmed says that it also happens within our ancestral memories. It is happening right now in Ukraine. It is happening in India with the pogroms that took place last year. It is held in Myanmar. It has been done in the United States. It's taken place in Bosnia."
Ahmed is not the only Oscar nominee who has wrestled with these issues. Ahmed is also an Executive Producer on "Flee," an animated documentary about a Afghan migrant's twisting journey to Denmark and self-acceptance.
"The Long Goodbye" is about identity, belonging and home. Ahmed says that 'Flee is also about identity, home, and belonging." "Identity, home, and who belongs there seems to be the conversation of our time," Ahmed says.
Last year, Ahmed was the first Muslim to be nominated as lead actor for "The Sound of Metal," where he played a drummer who lost his hearing. The short categories will be among the eight awards handed out before the broadcast begins . Although the academy has promised to honor all winners during the broadcast, some industry professionals have criticized the decision. Ahmed said that despite the fact that he was nominated for one of the eight categories of film, he would prefer to see them live on the telecast.
Ahmed says, "The (Oscars) community is about recognising the elders while also uplifting newcomers." "So often, the shorts category is where new talent cuts its teeth. Aneil Karia is a name that will be remembered for many years."
Ahmed, 39, was born in Wembley, outside London, to Pakistani parents. He has rapped many times about his complicated feelings about identity and how he made his way in the "business of Britishness".
Ahmed worked with USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative researchers in order to show how Muslims are often stereotyped or marginalized on television and film. Only 1.6% of the 8,965 characters in English identified in 200 films that made the most money between 2017 and 2019 were Muslims, while 30% were perpetrators of violence.
Although the second half is violent, the brief family scenes in "The Long Goodbye," which are set early in the film, are enough to capture something that mainstream cinema rarely shows: a Muslim family just existing. Ahmed recognizes that "The Long Goodbye", "Flee" and other "Flee" are tied to the moment but he sees them as a reflection of an eternal struggle. This is also evident in Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Dos Oruguitas", the immigration parable and the ballad "Encanto."
Ahmed says, "Stories of refugees, stories about intolerance and films like The Long Goodbye', 'Flee', and films like that, confront us with questions that, on some level, we all, regardless of our status, are always asking ourselves." These stories are timeless, that's why I believe they are. Look at the Aeneid. Troy kicks Aeneas out. It is ransacked, and he is now a refugee.
"He continued to find Rome by the way. Ahmed chuckles, "Not bad for a refugee." "Maybe right up there with Apple or Steve Jobs, a Syrian refugee."
Although "The Long Goodbye", may seem grim, it is also vibrant in its clarion defiance. Its screams are directed straight at the camera. Karia's film breaks away from convention with its radical shifts.
Ahmed says, "When you share your story, it's sharing your experience with somebody." You're connecting with people. That's hope. Connection is the key to hope.