Muslim Filmmakers Nominated for the 96th Academy Awards

"Poor Things," "Nimona" and more! See which Muslim creators got a nod for the 2024 Oscars.

Muslim Filmmakers Nominated for the 96th Academy Awards
Photo source: the Oscars

The 2024 Oscar nominations were revealed Jan. 23 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Leading the pack is the summer blockbuster cultural phenomenon "Barbenheimer" — the snappy portmanteau of Christopher Nolan’s historical thriller “Oppenheimer” (2013) and Greta Gerwig’s comedy “Barbie” (2023) after the Mattel toy of the same name — which earned 21 nominations altogether, with eight nods for “Barbie” and 13 for “Oppenheimer.” Also highly nominated is “Killers of the Flower Moon” (2023) with 10 nods, making Martin Scorsese the most nominated movie director alive.

However, perhaps most relevant to Fann is the second-most nominated film at the 96th Academy Awards: “Poor Things” (2023), a black comedy by Yorgos Lanthimos that has been dominating this award season. Set in a partially fantastical 19th century Europe, the film follows Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) who, after being crudely resurrected by a scientist (Willem Dafoe) following her suicide, runs off with a lascivious lawyer (Mark Ruffalo) on a journey of self-discovery and sexual liberation. Muslim American comedian and filmmaker Ramy Youssef has a supporting role as Max McCandles, an assistant to Dafoe’s mad scientist and one of Bella’s love interests.

While Youssef himself isn’t nominated for an award, “Poor Things” boasts an impressive 11 nominations, including a nod for the coveted Best Picture award. While Stone has been lauded as the film’s breakout star, Youssef certainly contributes to the film’s success, be it through his performance as a foil of sorts to Stone’s character’s journey of self-exploration or through the undeniable chemistry he shares with his castmates. Read more about Youssef’s role in “Poor Things” here.

Riz Ahmed is another Muslim actor who was not individually nominated but was part of the ensemble of a nominated film. Ahmed had a supporting role in “Nimona” (2023) as Ballister Boldheart, a former knight–turned–criminal who the titular mischievous Nimona (Chloë Grace Moretz) seeks as a mentor. “Nimona” has been nominated for Best Animated Feature. Fann covered the film here.

Also nominated for Best Animated Feature is “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (2023), which introduced several new Spider-people including Malala Windsor, the hijab-wearing Spider-UK. The new hijabi member of the Spider Society was only on screen for a few seconds, but the representation was significant for Muslim hijabi fans of the Spider-Verse.

The documentary “Four Daughters” (2023), originally titled “Les filles d'Olfa,” has been nominated for Best Documentary Feature Film. In the Cannes 2023 Golden Eye co-winner, Muslim director Kaouther Ben Hania combines documentary and drama to delve into the story of two missing sisters in her native Tunisia and their grieving family. Critics have called the film Ben Hania's most profound character portrait to date.

Focusing on the disappearance of Olfa Hamrouni's two eldest daughters in 2015, the documentary weaves together real and performed narratives. When Hamrouni’s daughters Ghofrane and Rahma disappeared, it left her and her two youngest daughters, Eya and Tayssir, deeply distressed. To unravel their complex story, Ben Hania enlists actors Ichrak Matar and Nour Karoui to portray the missing sisters. And when revisiting challenging memories becomes too emotional, renowned Muslim Egyptian actor Hind Sabri steps into the role of Olfa. The outcome is a unique blend of observational wonder and a performance masterclass, as Olfa and her daughters reconstruct a poignant tableau, navigating their individual perspectives on the shared trauma and carving out a complex space in the retelling of their history. The nod makes history for Ben Hania, who just became the first Arab woman to ever earn two Oscar nominations.

Muslim filmmaker Nazrin Choudhury’s short “Red, White and Blue” (2023) was nominated for Best Live Action Short Film. The film follows Rachel (Brittany Snow), a single parent living paycheck to paycheck. When an unexpected pregnancy threatens to unravel her already precarious position, she must cross state lines in search of an abortion. 

Finally, Yegane Moghaddam’s “Our Uniform” (2023) has been nominated for Best Animated Short Film. The short follows an Iranian girl who unfolds her school memories by going through the folds and fabrics of her old school uniform, exploring her feelings of gender as well as the clothing conventions imposed on young children.

Also at the 2024 Oscars, a record number of LGBTQ+ characters received seven acting nominations, including portrayals by openly queer actors Colman Domingo and Jodie Foster. While not playing a queer role, actor Lily Gladstone also received a nomination for her role in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” making history as the first Indigenous American actress nominated for an Academy Award. Danielle Brooks, playing Sofia in “The Color Purple” (2023), became the second actor to be nominated for this role after Oprah Winfrey in the 1985 adaptation.

Fann previously wrote about the history of Muslim filmmakers who were nominated for and won an Oscar here.

The winners of the 2024 Oscars will be revealed at the 96th Academy Awards ceremony on March 10, 2024, in a ceremony hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. View the full list of nominees at the link below.

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