*LA~Work&Culture Series: Aziz Tazi on Arabs in Hollywood

July 8, 2016

“Yes, I am Arab. And yes, I am Muslim” Aziz Tazi, a Moroccan filmmaker living in Hollywood proudly proclaimed to me.

In the wake of the Orlando shooting, global refugee crisis, and the ever increasing racial tension heightening here in the United States, Tazi’s daring declaration is received as admirably bold by some, yet suspiciously dangerous by many.

“I came here to challenge the stereotypes against our community through the avenue of film.”

When nearly the whole world sees a particular religion and ethnic group as the international enemy, it can be difficult to make an artistic statement that shifts images embedded for so long as negative, to something positive. But that is just what Tazi hopes to achieve.

Highlighted by Forbes Africa as one of the top 30 professionals under 30 making great impact, Tazi is both young and restless, juggling many projects but maintaining purpose through each one.

“When I moved to Los Angeles, I did not know what to expect. I knew it was a shark town where you had to hustle to survive, but I was personally surprised with the many encounters I had with corrupt business schemes.”

The disappointments with ill intentioned individuals did not stop Tazi from continuing to pursue his calling. His upcoming feature film, Night Walk, is a romantic crime drama, but carries a very special distinction. Instead of the usual casting of Arabs as terrorists, or as Tazi quoted “billionaires, bombers or belly dancers” he is very intentional with displaying Muslim and Arab characters who do not fit the usual bill. African American Muslims, moderate Muslims, even liberal Muslims. He wants to reflect the true diversity of a very misunderstood community.
“Being Arab in Hollywood is a challenge. It’s a challenge for any minority really, but especially those in the Muslim community. We are not only underrepresented; we also have a critical responsibility to bring about change and spread awareness.”


Tazi’s inspiration to pursue film truly sparked when he saw the great need to tell stories that reflect the positive aspects of his culture.

“While terrorists are using every media channel available to them to spread their radical ideologies of hatred and violence, I felt there was a great need for more artists in the Middle Eastern community to stand up and show our true voice. A need to show a side that people don’t see.”


Though the African American and Latino communities may still have a long way to go, their representation in Hollywood has progressed, with programs like Black-ish, and Jane the Virgin. Tazi desires to produce more content that will also give Arabs a positive platform.

Despite the usual trend of battling business corruption in Hollywood, Tazi appreciates that he has been received positively overall in the entertainment community.

“The discrimination I’ve faced has been less with the artistic community, but more on the governmental end. I have been wrongfully detained at the border simply because of the Arabic writing on my passport. There is automatically a suspicion that comes with my identity, but I believe more positive representation can change that.”

Upon asking Aziz the tricky question of whether his religious community should feel responsible for defending their reputation, he quoted the Hadith: “A Muslim should be like a palm tree, when you throw rocks at it, it releases dates.”

Tazi also referenced the Christian belief of turning the other cheek, emphasizing the importance of perseverance.

“When you adopt a defensive behavior – that gives them an excuse to point the finger again. It’s our job to repel evil with good. It can be exhausting, and easy to want to give up because of the heavy resistance we are fighting, but with the media as a tool, together, we can spread more understanding.”

Tazi’s film, Nightwalk, will be released in 2017.