Amanjot Bains (12th), Reporter

Jalaluddin al-Rumi is a renowned thirteenth century Persian poet who wrote about the ways of humanity and spiritual arguments. He is greatly appreciated by this generation as well as previous generations because of how relatable Rumi’s words are.

Now, Hollywood wants to present Rumi’s story to all audiences. Screenwriter David Franzoni and producer Stephen Joel Brown have their sights set on Leonardo DiCaprio to play the lead role of Rumi. But will the viewers be satisfied with a white man playing the role of a Persian?

Some argue that it is necessary to show the world the positive side to Islam, to ease the tensions between the world and Islam, and if a white actor will get the most positive recognition, so be it.

On the other hand, the hashtag #RumiWasntWhite has been going around on Twitter and other social media platforms. Those who do not want DiCaprio to play Rumi have even gone as far to start many petitions across the Internet. These petitions have thousands of supporters who have signed their agreement.

Their argument is that Hollywood is whitewashing everything. This is apparent even to viewers who do not pay close attention to the details. In The Prince of Persia, white actors (and actresses) are cast as Middle Easterners and Asians. In Argo, an American of Irish descent was chosen to play an American of Mexican descent. In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Mickey Rooney (white) played an angry Japanese neighbor. Need the list go on?

Another point that these petitioners are presenting is that it is so easy for Hollywood to get Middle Eastern actors to play the role of the bad guys, the terrorists. However, when it comes to showing them in a positive manner, Middle Easterners are not even on the audition list. This also applies to many other races for other stereotypes.

Hollywood directors have a common excuse in their defense. Actors and actresses of minority ethnicities do not have as much star power in the film industry to be a part of big budget movies. The question is, how will they achieve the “star power” if they are never given the chance?

Even though Leonardo DiCaprio is the first choice for Franzoni and Brown, he has not been asked, and sources close to DiCaprio have clearly stated that he will not be pursuing the role of Rumi.

Even so, should Leonardo DiCaprio have been considered to play the role of a Persian poet despite his not being of Persian descent? Would he be a better choice to get more exposure, or should a Middle Eastern actor get the chance?