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For some years now, all eyes have been on Oscars nominations and win, parsing these to see if the Motion Picture Academy is doing anything to address its inclusion problem—the OscarsSoWhite, OscarsSoMale hashtags on social media have obviously helped build pressure. For its part, the Academy has been trying course-correct on diversity and representation, though talented female, queer, or person-of-colour (PoC) cinema-folk are still sceptical. So, Chloe Zhao’s Best Director win—making up the Oscars ‘big four’ along with Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Picture— this year, for Nomadland, should not be seen as her winning because she is a woman (and a PoC), but her winning despite being a woman and a PoC. It is only the second time in its over-nine-decade-long history that the Academy has thought that a woman deserves the honour; the first time was Kathryn Bigelow’s win for The Hurt Locker, in 2010. To be sure, cinematic excellence has to be the touchstone of award-decisions, not representation. But, to believe that the Academy combs genuinely finds very little female or coloured cinematic merit is surely foolish?
When Parasite, a South Korean film, won the Oscar for the Best Picture, the Academy basked in self-congratulation, as the press talked about what a big win it was for diversity, as the Academy finally looked beyond Hollywood. However, in the little over nine decades till that point and since, has the rest of the world produced cinema inferior to the best that Hollywood has to offer? Till about a couple of years ago, non-English-language movies didn’t quite make it to the Best Motion Picture nominations. What has been done over the last few years, is commendable. What remains to be done, is a whole lot more.