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Riz Ahmed’s Oscar-winning masterpiece Gains New Symbolism Amid Pro-Palestine Uprisings

The beauty of art is its timelessness, who would have thought Riz Ahmed’s Oscar-winning masterpiece would become more symbolic than ever? The Long Goodbye, released first in 2020 made waves throughout the world, especially in the South Asian region after winning the Oscar for Best Live Action Short in 2022. The seemingly minimalistic short film conveyed a daunting message over a topic that has always been too controversial or complicated for Hollywood to ever truthfully represent. A subtle piece that brings the deep-rooted, socially internalized racism that still taints the so-called inclusivity facade of the West, to the surface.

The film commences with a presentation of a typical immigrant Pakistani family in the suburbs of Wembley, London. Riz Ahmed lights the screen with his subtle appearance at the beginning where he is found wound up in the whimsical wedding festivities of his sister. In a span of a few minutes, film creators successfully capture the chaos, jubilant tumult, and mind-numbing confusion in a desi wedding home. Packed with family members, loud music, and ladies tattling in the kitchen. The apparent passive mayhem strikes a crescendo when a mob in black attacks the family, Ahmed fails to safeguard them and witnesses the blood of his family spilling on the streets of London. A heart-wrenching moment, portrayed with cinematic perfection, emotionally moves anyone with a beating heart.

In the last few minutes, Ahmed’s helpless self rejuvenates to sing a song that poses a question of the sense of home, identity, and nationality. He calls out the Western bigots who scrambled their identity by invading their homeland, and now marginalize them because of the color of their skin and religion. A brave summons to the white radicalists who never fully emerged from racist acclamations and are now knee-deep into Islamophobic transgression. He strikes with profound bereavement of longing to find a home, in the words,

"They ever ask you, where you from? Like, where you really from?"

Meanwhile, also calls out the Pakistani nationalists who repudiate their own because they choose to live on the foreign land. Ahmed’s dilemma of finding a land to call home is represented in the next few lines:

"And I just got the shits when I went back to Pak

And my ancestors Indian, but India was not for us."

While these ever-famous lyrics were the pounding heart of the film, I wish they were not the crutches on which the entire concept assembled. The artistry of short film resides in the creator's ingenuity to convey an idea with utmost subtlety – a crisp shard of ice pierced right where the swollen concept could reek. The physical portrayal of all conclusive lines would have been more appreciable, though undeniably challenging but would befit the idealogy of short film.

Nevertheless, Ahmed’s strong words brought light to the xenophobia of the West which reemerged with worldwide pro-Palestinian protests, dilating the ethno-culture drift further. The escalated hate crimes against Asian immigrants make us reminiscent of Ahmed’s creation, an emblem of blatant truth.

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3 commenti

I really liked the connection you made to the Palestinian context specially in an age where media is being highly centralized to the point where you barely get to see the lesser dominant narrative in mass media. There are a few things that I do not fully understand as Sara mentioned but that is limited to the qoute that you mentioned from the song. I'd love it if you could elaborate a little on that, although, I will get to watching this short film myself as well.

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Sara Masood
Sara Masood
30 nov 2023

Hi, this is an insightful article to read, however I did not understand the plot of the art piece you are dissecting here. When you wrote “mind-numbing confusion in a desi wedding home” – I was compelled to think about how the desi wedding home is very different from what a wedding home is in its normal circumstances. Everything that happens while the wedding is going on is highly chaotic and enunciated. Therefore, don’t you think that the events that took place during the wedding are not an accurate reflection of how the characters felt and are?

Secondly, "And I just got the shits when I went back to Pak// And my ancestors Indian, but India was not for us."…

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A really thought-provoking comparison! It is interesting how, as Pro-Palestinian sentiment gains worldwide traction, many media pieces that have spoken about these issues of identity, homelessness, and oppression are quickly being recontextualized to fit in the narratives that are coming out. Often, I've disliked diasporic media pieces, be it poetry or stories, because they always spoke of situations in such a nationalistic manner—it spoke of wanting to either fit in a space, or have that space accept them for who they are, when the reality was that, from our Third World lens, the idea of fitting in in such a way is much different. I find personally that I harbor no delusion of being accepted by the wider, whiter society…

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