Increased race representation welcomed with caution after marginalised artists sidelined by all-white casts for years.
A Belgian actor of Moroccan descent has turned down the role of a “terrorist” in a film by the director of Scarface, in a move he hopes will curb the stigmatisation of communities in culture.
Mourade Zeguendi on Friday thanked his fans for their support in his decision not to play in Brian De Palma’s film, three days after announcing the news on his Facebook page.
“I would never have thought in my life that I would turn down a film … for Brian De Palma,” Zeguendi had said in a 51-second video that has now been viewed more than 30,000 times.
“De Palma, a living legend of cinema, offered me to play in one of his films which is going to be shot in Belgium. The role I was offered, I will let you guess what it was. A Molenbeek terrorist. And so I had to say no to Brian De Palma. F**k, it’s terrible.”
Belgium‘s Molenbeek neighbourhood made headlines after it emerged that two of men allegedly behind a deadly attack in Paris in November 2015 had lived there.
Later, in an interview with De Standaard, Zeguendi said: “There is a difference between playing a Mafioso and a terrorist, and when I heard ‘terrorist from Molenbeek’, I said ‘stop’. It’s not Afghanistan here. As a father, a Belgian and an inhabitant of Brussels, I say these grotesque simplifications have to stop.”
De Palma, 76, is best known for his psychological thriller and crime films. As well as Scarface, he directed Carlito’s Way, The Untouchables and Carrie.
By the time of publishing, De Palma’s representative had not responded to Al Jazeera’s request for further comment.
Zeguendi, a 36-year-old actor, has appeared in more than 20 films and television series, and performs in theatre.
Joseph Fahim, a film critic, programmer and a lecturer based in Cairo, told Al Jazeera that Zeguendi’s stance was “commendable”.
“[But] does it herald a possible future resistance on part of Arab actors for these kind of roles? I doubt it,” he said. “For every Zeguendi, there will be dozens of other actors willing to snatch the chance to work with someone like De Palma and justify their decision.”
He said that several other artists had refused similar roles on account of being typecast, but not all decisions are made public “because actors usually refuse to sever their relationships with directors”.
“So maybe it is actually brave of him to publicise this,” said Fahim.
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