FOR many, 2020 has been the strangest and most difficult year to comprehend.
For Riz Ahmed, it has been one of growth and self-understanding, by all accounts.
He became the first British Asian and also the first Muslim to receive an Oscar nomination for best actor for his role in the feature film, Sound of Metal.
A US indie film that got a cinema release last year, Ahmed plays a heavy metal drummer, Ruben, who begins to lose his hearing – and the film is about the central character trying to adjust to his new deaf world.
Brilliantly soundscaped and directed by firsttime narrative feature director Darius Marder, Ahmed has described the time in which he made Sound of Metal in 2018, as “life-changing” and the film has been critically acclaimed widely. Ahmed carries the whole film on his shoulders and it is a performance of power and passion – he not only learnt to drum but sign as well – as Ruben joins a deaf community and has to sign to communicate.
He was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2021, for his role, but lost out to Chadwick Boseman in the film adaptation, of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, a play by the celebrated writer and chronicler of the near contemporary African-American experience, August Wilson.
In an article published in Esquire this February, Ahmed told fellow Brit Sanjiv Bhattacharaya: “I feel really positive about where I’m at creatively. I’m working from a much more personal place, and I feel like I am finding my voice, my language. I’m doing what I want to do now, rather than what someone else wants.”
That last sentence is crucial in appreciating what Ahmed has achieved over the year and what he might go onto do. It feels like 2020 was the start