We’ve been waiting for last night’s Academy Awards for a long time. With three strong Arab, or Arab-American, nominees there was a lot of excitement among Arab and Middle Eastern cinephiles.
In case you missed it, here were the nominations:
Capernaum (Lebanon) for Best Foreign Language Film
Of Fathers and Sons (Syria) for Best Documentary Feature
Rami Malek (Egyptian-American) for Best Actor
These nominations were important, and in some cases historic, for Arab film. Capernaum, directed by Nadine Labaki, was the first Lebanese film directed by a woman to be nominated for Best Foreign Language film. She was also the only woman director to be nominated for a feature film this year. Of Fathers and Sons was the only non-American film nominated in the Documentary Feature category. This year was big in general for international and foreign language films, an improvement in diversity and representation, however small.
In the end, Rami Malek was the only one to walk away with a statue, winning for his performance as Freddie Mercury in the film Bohemian Rhapsody. You can watch his touching acceptance speech below.
Rami is the first actor of Egyptian descent to win the award for Best Lead Actor. Many also consider him to be the first person of Arab decent to win this award, though some argue that honor belongs to F. Murray Abraham, who won the award for his role in Amadeus in 1985. F. Murray’s father was an immigrant from Syria, though he was of Assyrian heritage. Regardless, Rami’s win is still extremely important. He gives a new generation of young people a role model to look up to, whether it’s because he’s Arab, Egyptian, Coptic, a first generation American or even just because he’s the first actor to win Best Actor while in a series on regular television. He has already inspired hundreds of people who don’t often see themselves represented on screen to follow their dreams. And of course, even without winning the Oscar, Nadine Labaki and Talal Derki have as well!
Rami also spoke to the press after the show and gave some words of encouragement to young people all over the world hoping to one day follow in his footsteps. He even flexed his Arabic skills! We’re very proud.