News  ·  02 | 08 | 2023

A New Icon With a Civil Consciousness


Actor, producer, director, musician, activist. And still all of this is certainly not enough to define Riz Ahmed, one of the most versatile and thrilling artists of the contemporary entertainment industry. Honored with the Excellence Award Davide Campari at the 2023 Locarno Film Festival, Ahmed brings to the kermess his last work, Dammi, a short-movie directed by Yann Demange (‘71, White Boy Rick) that explores what it means to live in between cultures, feeling eradicated from your own heritage. As hommage to Ahmed the Festival is also showing Mughal Mowgli (2020) by Bassam Tariq, probably his most personal and autobiographical work.

Since before becoming a world-acclaimed star thanks to Hollywood blockbusters like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Jason Bourne and Venom, Ahmed has committed his acting career to characters who explore and portray the social, economic and civil contradictions of our times: since his breakthrough performance in Four Lions (2010), a satirical comedy about islamic fundamentalism, Ahmed has brought to both the big and small screen a series of astonishing characters, capable to connect with the audience in an emotional and intellectual way. He played a Pakistani citizen living in New York whose life completely changes after a terrorist attack in The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012) by Mira Nair, then plays next to a chilling Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler (2014) by Dan Gilroy, a dark, contemporary tale about the danger of abusing a medium like television and news footage. After that he explored the dark side of America’s justice system in The Night Of (2016), one of the best miniseries produced in the last twenty years. His character Nasir ‘Naz’ Khan granted him an Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movies. He later made history being the first muslim and South Asian actor to receive an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Sound of Metal (2019), directed by Darius Marder. Ruben is a drummer who, after losing his hearing, is forced to reinvent himself through new ways of life, connecting with others in a deeper and more meaningful way. An incredibly evocative and painful performance, capable of connecting Ahmed's passion for cinema and music. Following that, Ahmed talked about post-traumatic stress syndrome in Encounter (2021), a gripping drama directed by Michael Pearce where he portrays Malik, a soldier who tries to protect his two sons from a mysterious alien invasion. For his future projects, Riz is going to be no less than Hamlet in a new, contemporary take on William Shakeaspeare’s masterpiece, and will then work again with Yann Demange in Exit West, an adaptation of Moshin Amid’s novel – the same author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist – which mixes fantasy with the issue of refugees from countries at war. They will be new pieces in the hypnotic puzzle that is Riz Ahmed’s career, an artist always willing to use his power and awareness in order to push boundaries of contemporary consciousness.


Adriano Ercolani