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Lama Hajj 08 Jun 2016

Leonardo DiCaprio To Play Persian Poet In Film

It’s 2016 and Hollywood is still white as ever.

There is a new film being cast about the life of famous 13th century Persian poet, Jalaluddin al-Rumi. For those who don’t know, Rumi was not only a poet, but also a scholar and spiritual master to many. This film is intended to “challenge Muslim stereotypes,” and offer a look into this mystical man’s life, said screenwriter David Franzoni.

Here’s the thing: the screenwriter and producer really, really want Leonardo DiCaprio to play the role.

How are they expecting to build credible and identifiable profiles of Rumi by whitewashing the character? Will this be an exercise in “medium to brown”-face? It seems that Middle Eastern and Persian actors are always available to play terrorists, but not reputable figures.

This matter has drawn renewed focus on the lack of diversity in the Academy and in castings. It seems that Hollywood always seems to offer a whiter, “more mild” version of whatever the character needs to be.

An example of this was the casting of Latina actress Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone, the light-skinned actress bears no likeness to dark-skinned Simone. While people of all color (and shades) are of course entitled to roles, it seems that this is a systematic thing done by Hollywood: provide palatable versions of blackness in the form of light-skinned or mixed actors. It speaks to the xenophobia of Hollywood towards outward race.

People are already offended by this potential casting, and have been using the hashtag #RumiWasntWhite to vent on Twitter.