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Hollywood Misses Opportunity With Oscars’ ‘The Mauritanian’

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One of 2021’s most honored movies — nominated for 5 BAFTAs and a Critics’ Choice award, in addition to the winner of a Golden Globe — and which encompasses a star-studded solid together with two-time Academy Award winner Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch, will likely be conspicuously absent on this 12 months’s Oscars. “The Mauritanian” is the true story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi (performed by Tahar Rahim), a Guantanomo prisoner struggling torture and isolation within the Kafka-esque nightmare of the army jail.

The movie additionally shines a light-weight on the battles of the legal professionals working for his freedom (Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley), in addition to Lt. Col. Stuart Crouch (Benedict Cumberbatch), a Marine lawyer charged with maintaining Slahi incarcerated however wrestling together with his Christian religion and the morality of the job he has been requested to do. The movie is without doubt one of the first to actually reckon with our nation’s function in violating worldwide legislation, legalizing torture, and desecrating the Constitutional values we are saying we maintain pricey within the post-9/11 fervor.

I visited Guantanamo Bay in 2007 to evaluate residing circumstances. Upon arrival, I used to be explicitly instructed to not communicate to any of the prisoners, a few of whom had been held with out prices for years. They paced backwards and forwards like nervous animals in a zoo, some with faces pressed to the glass, their eyes wanting far-off. The army insisted that they have been being fed effectively and supplied spiritual materials, a Quran, and a prayer rug, however that they had been disadvantaged of their humanity. Like the notorious Manzanar Japanese internment camp earlier than it, Guantanamo shouldn’t solely be closed, however it must function a reminder of a time to which we must always by no means return. “The Mauritanian” highlights this level — however by shutting out the movie for Oscar nominations the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences missed a possibility to shine a light-weight on the difficulty.

This isn’t a problem of illustration. In truth, we’re pleased with the work that MPAC’s Hollywood Bureau has performed collaborating with business leaders to extend tales by and about Muslims. We are excited that this 12 months’s Academy Awards nominees embrace Riz Ahmed and Steven Yeun, the primary Muslim and the primary Asian American respectively to be nominated within the Best Actor Category.

The 2021 nominees in whole have been hailed as one of the various teams within the historical past of the awards, for which the Academy deserves credit score. But illustration is of little good when the reality of our expertise is ignored. The Muslim group worldwide has been vilified on movie for years, however notably since 9/11. The trauma that Muslims have confronted by the hands of not solely street-level bigots, however by the nationwide protection equipment of this nation is incalculable. The Academy has struck a chord prior to now when honoring tales in regards to the injustices of slavery or gender discrimination, however it continues to show a blind eye to the struggling of a folks which were a part of the material of American for the reason that Revolutionary War.

For Muslims, this omission isn’t a shock. We have absorbed the shocks of stereotypes for many years — the terrorist, the savage who must be civilized, the existential menace to America. Films like “The Mauritanian” inform our story as we have now lived it, a perspective that’s sorely lacking from American movie and tradition usually. While it’s too late for the Academy to acknowledge this essential work, it’s incumbent upon all of us to make sure that movies prefer it proceed to be produced and that these tales are instructed. The Academy would possibly be capable of ignore one movie, however it can not ignore actuality.

Nationally acknowledged for his dedication to bettering the general public understanding of Islam and insurance policies impacting American Muslims, Salam Al-Marayati is president and co-founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Follow him on Twitter at @salamalmarayati

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