Ramin Bahrani, the director of the Oscar-nominated film The White Tiger, said that he faced racist remarks during a virtual interview with Ava DuVernay, and members of the Academy Award and the BAFTA in Atlanta, USA.
Speaking to People magazine on Monday, the Iranian-American director who is nominated for the Oscars in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, said, “I was in Atlanta on location in a residential neighborhood directing a TV pilot for Apple. We had worked late that day, so I had to do my Zoom interview with Ava on my phone while we were still in the street. During the interview, I noticed a car parked behind me. When the driver saw me and my colleague (who is South Asian) he said, ‘You all think you run the world. You all don’t run s—.’ His friend told him to calm down and leave it alone. As the driver pulled away, he shouted, ‘Go back to your own country!’ ”
While DuVernay said that she did not fully understand what had happened, she said that Bahrani maintained his “calm”, showing the normalcy of racism that people of colour are “used to”. Calling him “the ultimate professional”, she said that Bahrani proceeded with the interview anyway.
In another instance, a few weeks prior to this incident, Bahrani shared an encounter with a person from Los Angeles. Bahrani said the person took a dig at him in relation to former US president Donald Trump’s heavily criticised anti-immigrant move of building ‘The Wall’ with Mexico. The individual had said, “The former president didn’t build a wall tall enough to keep you out.”
The magazine spoke to Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who was not present during the Zoom call but worked with Bahrani in The White Tiger, both as an actor and the executive producer.
Both DuVernay and Chopra Jonas extended their support and spoke about the baggage that artists of colour have to carry unlike their “white male counterparts”.
Chopra Jonas has earlier spoken about her experience with racism as a teenager growing up in the US and threw light on America that “was built on the back of the immigrants”.
She said, “Asking me about my thoughts on what happened to Ramin is a sign of where we stand today, and the work we have to continue to do. So my question in response is – who belongs here, and who doesn’t? Isn’t America a melting pot of all people from all backgrounds? This country was built on the back of immigrants in search of the American dream, a life of freedom, opportunity, and a safe place not only for themselves but for their families.”
Chopra Jonas said that “Hollywood and pop culture” have to fight for racial equality and representation in global entertainment.
“Content by Hollywood is embraced by the world, but the world is not always embraced by Hollywood,” she said.
DuVernay said, “We cannot just make and focus on our work like our white male counterparts. We make our work and must also endure and negotiate our way through all the filth of racism, xenophobia, sexism and other bias that permeates our country and our industry.”