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Profile - Riz Ahmed

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Riz Ahmed

Born 1 December 1982

Background London Riz Ahmed graduated from Oxford with a degree in philosophy, politics and economics before training as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama. He came to prominence playing Shafiq Rasul, a member of the Tipton Three, in Michael Winterbottom’s The Road to Guantanamo. Returning from the world premier of the film at the Berlin Film Festival, Ahmed was himself detained and questioned under the prevention of terrorism act and asked why he’d want to be in a film about the Tipton Three. It was then that Ahmed combined his Oxford education with a hitherto hidden music talent. Under the moniker Riz MC, he recorded the satirical social-commentary rap ‘Post 9/11 Blues’. The playful song was initially banned from British airplay because the lyrics were deemed ‘politically sensitive’.

What’s he up to now? Ahmed puts in a mesmerising performance in the title role of Eran Creevy’s debut film Shifty. The 26-year-old actor plays a Luton drug dealer who is being set-up for a fall. It’s a remarkable essay on masculine identity reminiscent of Harvey Keitel’s turn in Mean Streets. He will soon be seen playing a pizza delivery boy turned fashion model in Sally Potter’s Rage. As if that were not enough, he’s currently part of the excellent ensemble cast in Neil Marshall’s Centurion.

What he says about … cultural identity on film ‘I think something that is really exciting about Shifty and also about Rage is that you have characters who are first and foremost characters, they’re not ciphers representing any social group. There is not this idea that this guy is a cipher for Muslims. In Shifty, the guy is only concerned with knocking out his crack and chopping it up. I think it’s exciting for an audience when you get to relate to characters as people first rather than as stereotypes.’

Interesting fact Riz MC contributes to the soundtrack of Shifty.

Shifty, selected release from Fri 24 Apr.

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