Pointing out the data that found only less than 10% of top grossing films from 2017-2019 had a Muslim character, the ‘Sound of Metal’ actor creates the Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion that aims to find and nurture the talent.
Riz Ahmed is taking a concrete action to fight the lack of Muslim representation in movie industry. While the talks about racial inclusion and gender equality have slowly changed the filmmaking and how it works, the Academy Award-nominated actor couldn’t ignore the fact that only less than 10% of top grossing films from 2017-2019 had a Muslim character on screen, with less than 2% of those characters having speaking roles.
With that in mind, he is teaming up with the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, the Ford Foundation and Pillars Fund to launch a multi-layered initiative for Muslim representation in media. Powered by USC Annenberg’s new study on Muslim representation in media, the coalition has created the Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion as well as the Pillars Artist Fellowship.
“The representation of Muslims on screen feeds the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed, the countries that get invaded,” Ahmed said of the problem in question. “The data doesn’t lie. This study shows us the scale of the problem in popular film, and its cost is measured in lost potential and lost lives.”
Refusing to wait for the change to happen, the “Sound of Metal” star explained the initiative, “I know the industry has the imagination and the resources to fix this problem. Now it must show the will, and the Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion can offer a practical roadmap for change.” He elaborated, “The Fellowship also offers a meaningful way to intervene. Having a source of unrestricted funding for Muslim artists and storytellers will be game changing.”
“Muslim communities in the U.S. and U.K. are amongst the most economically disadvantaged,” he continued, “and yet currently there’s nothing else out there like the Pillars Artist Fellowship which really invests and believes in the talent pipeline. Had I not received a scholarship and also a private donation, I wouldn’t have been able to attend drama school.”
He then shared his goal with the initiative, “This fellowship is a game changer, because it means that we can put the time and energy into finding the talent and nurturing the talent. And that’s how we’re gonna see long term change.”
The fellowship offers selected grantees an unrestricted award of $25,000.The grantees will also receive mentorship from the fellowship’s advisory board, made up of Muslim artists, including Ahmed, Mahershala Ali, Ramy Youssef, Lena Khan, Sana Amanat, Karim Amer, Rosa Attab, Nida Manzoor, Jehane Noujaim and Hasan Minhaj.