British actor Riz Ahmed and director Aneil Karia's "The Long Goodbye" was shortlisted for an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film. Set in a disturbing dystopian world, the short film takes inspiration from Ahmed and Karia's personal fears about rising intolerance and discrimination in the world.
The film follows a south Asian family in suburban Britain as its members prepare for a wedding. Their world is turned upside down when a group of white armed men violently bursts into their home.
"I understand that for a lot of people, they can watch a film like this and say: 'you're trying to make a political statement,' but I think it's really a position of privilege to be able to look at someone like this and say: 'Oh, that's political. That's something that just lives in the headlines,'" Ahmed told Reuters in an interview.
"For many of us, this is very personal. Smaller versions of this really impinge on daily lives ... The bigger nightmare that this film portrays is one that really keeps us up at night," he explained.
The 12-minute film shares its name with the 2020 album by Ahmed, who was born in London to Pakistani parents. The record also addresses racism.
"The larger concept of the film is ... something that plays on our minds and I think plays on the minds of millions of people around the world who may feel like they are in danger in the context of the rising tide of intolerance we're seeing around the world," he said.
Karia said he and Ahmed, the first Muslim to get a best actor Oscar nomination, embarked on the project after some heartfelt talks.
"We began a series of conversations about how we felt in that particular moment in life and what it was that was charging us both creatively and as human beings.
"And through two or three kinds of long conversations, we began to find this idea and start owning it," he said.
The official nominations for the Oscars will be announced on Feb. 8.