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Venom star Riz Ahmed-backed study highlights lack of Muslim representation in film

·3-min read
Photo credit: Andreas Rentz - Getty Images
Photo credit: Andreas Rentz - Getty Images

When it comes to diversity in Hollywood, it's clear there is a long way to go before things are anywhere close to equal across the board, but what is clear is the lack of Muslim representation in film.

Often if a Muslim character is there, they are very often portrayed in quite damaging stereotypes, or in negative and violent storylines.

Venom star Riz Ahmed, along with Pillars Fund, a Chicago-based advocacy group, and the Ford Foundation, commissioned a study to look at Muslim representation in 200 films from the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand released between 2017 and 2019.

Photo credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
Photo credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Of course, the results speak volumes for the industry.

"The representation of Muslims on screen feeds the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed, the countries that get invaded," Ahmed told The Hollywood Reporter. "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."

Missing & Maligned: The Reality of Muslims in Popular Global Movies highlights just how misrepresented Muslims showing that out of 8,965 speaking characters, just 6 per cent were Muslim. Less than 10 per cent of the films included a Muslim in a speaking role, and there were no Muslim characters in any of the animated films surveyed.

In terms of the characters that were there, female Muslim representation was very low, as 76.4 per cent of the characters were male. The report found just one Muslim character identified as LGBTQ+, a single Muslim character with a disability.

Photo credit: Sony Pictures
Photo credit: Sony Pictures

Related: Riz Ahmed opens up about his Oscar-nominated role in Sound of Metal

"More than half of the primary and secondary Muslim characters in these films were immigrants, migrants or refugees, which along with other findings in the study consistently rendered Muslims as 'foreign,'" added Al-Baab Khan, one of the study's authors.

It really does speak volumes for Hollywood, something that the Oscar nominee says can change, and off the back of this study a Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion has been set up as a road map to ensure more Muslim representation appears in film going forward.

"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."

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Related: Venom star Riz Ahmed addresses possible return in the sequel

He said the Pillars Artist Fellowship helped him when he was a young actor and is necessary to ensure Muslim talent continues to get the chance to flourish.

"Muslim communities in the US and UK are amongst the most economically disadvantaged, 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."

Venom: Let There Be Carnage will now be released on June 25, 2021.


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