A win for diversity with room to improve

A+win+for+diversity+with+room+to+improve

Courtesy of pixabay

The 92nd Academy Awards was a night of historic wins as the South Korean thriller, “Parasite” took home four golden statues, including the coveted Best Picture, making it the first foreign-language film to accomplish such a feat. 

This year’s Oscars was a win for diversity, making its mark in the history books; it is arguably the most memorable Oscars in recent years. However, there is still room for improvement in the repeatedly white-washed and male-dominated ceremony which yet again saw no women nominated for Best Director. 

Important wins of the night include indigenous New Zealander Taika Waititi who won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for his Nazi satire, “Jojo Rabbit,” dedicating his speech to indigenous kids around the world. “Hair Love,” which is about a father who has to style his African-American daughter’s hair for the first time, won Best Animated Short Film. And the composer of “Joker,” Hildur Guðnadóttir, became the first woman in 23 years to win an Oscar for Best Score – only three other women have won before her. “Parasite,” directed by Bong Joon-ho, also took home Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film. 

Despite there being a phenomenal female director pool from Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” to Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell,” the academy once again overlooked the achievement of women. Only five women have ever been nominated for the spot in the academy’s 92-year history and Kathryn Bigelow was the only woman to win Best Director in 2010 for the war drama film, “The Hurt Locker.” 

It’s appalling that within the Oscar’s long history they have been unable to nominate a sufficient amount of female directors who have made remarkable films. Each year it becomes more confusing and maddening, when the Oscars dismiss bold and empowering films by female directors for often violent and sexualized films by men. By not recognizing female directors, the Oscars are sending the message that their artistry is irrelevant and doesn’t matter. It is crucial that young girls look up and feel inspired by women in film, not the same brutal films like “Joker” and “No Country For Old Men.”

However, as men of color, Bong and Waititi still deserve to be celebrated for their monumental wins and shouldn’t be minimalized. But considering the academy’s usual tendencies, it is shocking they were able to recognize a foreign film before female directors. At future Oscar ceremonies I would like to see both women and people of color being nominated for their accomplishments. 

“Parasite’s” wins are not only a victory for the predominantly Asian cast, but for all international cinema. This groundbreaking film is a gamechanger for Hollywood. It will change the way foreign films are distributed, funded and viewed, starting a new era in cinema. Filmmakers and distributors should be racing to get non-English films out the door after this film’s triumph.

The South Korean film won a slew of prestigious awards that set it on its path to win Best Picture. Prior to the 2020 Oscars, “Parasite” was awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last May and had big earnings at the box-office, making $165 million worldwide and a projected surge following its win. 

Earlier this year, the film also won a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. The film’s director gave a candid speech via his translator, urging audiences to embrace subtitles. 

“Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” said Bong. 

It’s a valid argument. Foreign-language films shouldn’t deter audiences from enjoying their creativity and message. Subtitles can be perceived as a barrier but it’s something that needs to be overcome. More audiences need to be pushed outside of their comfort zone and be exposed to international films instead of remaking or dubbing them. 

However, I’m worried the academy will consider “Parasite’s” win enough for foreign films and revert back to honoring white-washed American films. The Academy Awards are an international affair and should continue honoring a wide array of films, not just within the International Feature Film category. 

Last year, “Green Book” was awarded Best Picture. It was a controversial film that was commonly perceived as the academy’s “feel good” pick. The film is about the relationship between an African-American pianist and his Italian-American driver in an era of segregation; it has been criticized as a film by white people for white people to self-congratulate themselves. 

It’s surprising to see the Best Picture award go from the poorly executed “Green Book” to the revolutionary “Parasite” – however, audiences and the academy need to start embracing unconventional films. “Parasite’s” win will pave the way for foreign films, making audiences more interested, and streaming platforms more willing to adopt subtitled content. There’s a whole cinematic world beyond English speaking films.

“Parasite’s” epic win is a turning point for the Oscars – but with the academy becoming more diverse, women still need to break that glass ceiling. Hopefully we can see this at next year’s ceremony and beyond.