Of Arabs and the Oscars’ Gold

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With millions of moviegoers chanting along to the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody once sang by the legendary Freddy Mercury and millions of others sympathizing with the heart-wrenching story of Zain in Capernaum, this Oscar season has been nothing but inspiring for Arab movie makers and cinema fanatics as well. Lebanese movie maker Nadine Labaki, Egyptian movie star Rami Malek, alongside Berlin-based Syrian director Talal Derki have highlighted an epitome of success exhibited by Arab cinema in an era where Academy Awards have been slowly but surely heading towards a multi-cultural awards portfolio.

Rami Malek
The Son of Egyptian Immigrants Holds Gold

Rami Malek, previously best known for his award-winning lead role in the television drama series Mr. Robot has been at the forefront of Egyptian social media pride after his eloquent acceptance speech for Best Actor at the 91st Academy Awards. Connecting his success to his Egyptian Immigrant parents, Malek emphasized that as a first generation American Egyptian his story is being written right now and he could not be all the more grateful. Malek’s success comes after several failed attempts from Hollywood to typecast him as a terrorist before being invited to play Freddy Mercury, an immigrant who wanted nothing but to be unapologetically himself. Malek’s success in portraying the role of Mercury in Queen has undoubtedly transcended cultural borders and made him one of Hollywood’s royalty with several other awards such as a BAFTA, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild.

From the Slums of the Street to the Red Carpet

After only just one year when fellow compatriot Ziad Doueiri’s movie The Insult was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film in the Academy Awards, Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum has taken the world of cinema by storm. By being nominated for the same category as The Insult, and by becoming the first Arab woman filmmaker to breakthrough this year and subsequently receiving appraisal by celebrity figure Oprah Winfrey, Labaki has become a legend filmmaker in Lebanon and the Arab Region. The Lebanese drama takes place in a court of law where 12-year-old Zain, played by Zain Al Rafeaa, a Syrian Refugee residing in Lebanon with no prior training sues his parents for giving birth to him. The film then traces Zain’s journey in search of his own identity and his rebellion against the status quo that he was slammed with since his childhood. At its premiere in Cannes, the movie received a fifteen-minute standing ovation and carried on by winning the jury prize, the equivalent of a Grand Prix in the Cannes Film Festival.

Arabs in the Oscars
arabs in the oscars
Talal Derki’s Of Father and Sons

Under the impression of being a photojournalist sympathetic towards radical Jihadism, Talal Derki, a Berlin-based Syrian Director enters a village controlled by the Nusra Front and depicts life under Jihadi extremism in an up close and personal manner. Derki’s documentary has also been nominated for Best Documentary Feature in the 2019 edition of the Academy Awards all the while garnering critical acclaim with a score on international movie aggregator Rotten Tomatoes of 94% positive reviews by worldwide critics.
With Arab Filmmakers and actors continuously seeking considerable ground in the Academy Awards and with previous Arab features being nominated for Academy Awards, it is no secret that Arab filmmakers have got the passion and talent for movie making. Evidently, better support is still needed for those in the Middle East to keep the momentum going in the ultimate aim of reaping a stepping stone in the most prestigious Hollywood awards festival.

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