Big win for South Asians in 94th Oscars


The 94th Academy Awards is surely one that will be remembered for the ages for many reasons.

Besides the Will Smith-Chris Rock scene, this year saw a number of South Asians not just nominated but win the most coveted award.

There were in fact, two winners of South Asian origin. Actor Riz Ahmed[Above left]  and producer Joseph Patel were among the few who neared the pedestal and were able to win the award.

Indian American Joseph Patel along with co-producers David Dinerstein and Robert Fyvolent and director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson won Best Documentary Feature Oscar for “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).”

The documentary examines the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which was held at Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park) in Harlem and lasted for six weeks.

Despite having a large attendance and performers such as Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, among others, the festival was seen as obscure in pop culture, something that the documentarians investigate.

Riz Ahmed, who is a British-Pakistani actor, won the Oscar for The Long Goodbye. He has won the Oscar for Aneil Karia’s live-action short film The Long Goodbye, for which he was the producer and has co-writer.

The Long Goodbye is based on Ahmed’s album of the same, which was released last year. For those who don’t know, Aneil is also of Indian descent.

During his acceptance speech, Ahmed said, “In such divided times, we believe that the role of story is to remind us there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’. There’s just ‘us’.” He added, “This is for everyone who feels like they don’t belong. Anyone who feels like they’re stuck in no man’s land. You’re not alone. We’ll meet you there. That’s where the future is. Peace.”

This isn’t Riz’s first nomination. Last year, he was nominated for an Oscar for his role as a hearing-impaired drummer in Sound of Metal.

On the other hand, Joseph Patel is a producer, writer, director and executive whose origins can be traced back to Baroda in Gujarat. He co-produced the full-length documentary feature Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), which bagged the Best Documentary Feature award.

Patel is the son of an Indian father from Baroda, Gujarat and an Uganda-born-and-raised mother who later moved to Anand, Gujarat when she was 12. While at UC Davis, Patel was involved in the campus radio station, which was “the most transformative experience” of his life, he told GQ India. “I discovered that there was this constellation of people connected by music, all around the world.”

The “Summer of Soul” team received the award by Chris Rock, who had just been slapped by Will Smith following a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith. “This is such a stunning moment for me right now, but it’s not about me,” Questlove said. “It’s about marginalized people in Harlem that needed to heal from pain. Just know that in 2022, this is not just a 1969 story about marginalized people in Harlem.”

The documentary edged past “Writing With Fire,” chronicling India’s only Dalit women-run newspaper; and Riz Ahmed co-produced “Flee,” which tells the real-life story of Amin, a gay Afghan refugee, through vividly animated renderings of both his past and future with a new husband; as well as “Ascension,” by Jessica Kingdon, Kira Simon-Kennedy and Nathan Truesdell; and “Attica” by Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry.

Directed by debutantes Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, ”Writing With Fire” tells the story of the rise of Khabar Lahariya, and follows an ambitious group of wonder women – led by their chief reporter, Meera – as the team switches from print to digital to stay relevant.