The Oscars got the much anticipated boost from the recognition of diversity.
The Oscars got the much anticipated boost from the recognition of diversity. It is irrelevant whether this was intentional or not, but there were a number of choices that did a world of good for an essentially male and white Academy to see merit in the world around it and honour that effort.
The best picture — Green Book —said to be based on a true story in the segregation era road trip drama about a black pianist and his white chauffer and the love and respect for each other, although not acknowledged so by the driver’s family, may have done its bit for racial harmony even as we toast the black actor Mahershala Ali for a second Oscar for best supporting role.
The best actor award went to a Coptic Orthodox first generation Egyptian immigrant to America who becomes the first Arab American to have won an Oscar, for best actor. “I may not have been the obvious choice but I guess it worked out,” the star of Bohemian Rhapsody said modestly. The film itself was controversial because of the director being charged with sexual misconduct and sex with minors and he wasn’t mentioned in the usual Oscars thank you speech. As the story was about a gay immigrant, it may have done even more for the LGBTQI+ community.
There was an Indian connection to the best actress award winner Olivia Colman of The Favourite as her great great grandmother was born in the 19thcentury in the northeast town of Kishanganj and she had travelled there once in seeking her roots. There were other awards in supporting categories that recognised talent from beyond the great white world. The inclusivity of winners since the #Oscarssowhite reaction of 2016 makes a clear talking point.
In short, this is one edition of the Oscars, one without a host, which may have managed to satisfy a large section of cinema lovers while also acknowledging that the world of cinema itself has changed with the viewers’ choice tilting beyond watching movies in the theatre. Netflix, the pioneering streaming service, had ample recognition in its Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron directed original Roma winning awards, even if it did not win the coveted best picture award.
Netflix was also the harbinger of India’s first Oscar for producing a movie — in the Documentary Short Subject category of course — in the socially relevant Period. End of Sentence. The award-winning Iranian-American Rayka Zehtabchi directed short has been produced by Indian producer Guneet Monga’s Sikhya Entertainment.
India is bound to be mighty proud of this achievement of an Oscar, coming 10 years after AR Rahman and Resul Pookutty had won for music and sound in 2009. The idea spurring the film was also India’s original ‘Pad Man’, Aruachalam Muruganantham from Coimbatore who invented a machine to make economical sanitary pads for menstruating women and won for them an unimaginable freedom from India’s oppressive old regime governing such women’s lives.
Sneh, a woman working in the Hapur factory near Delhi, was invited to the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre. What a transformation and what a story. Such is the diversity of ideas that the 91stOscars recognised even as it gave up its obsessive anti-Trumpism, down to a leavening of pick-up lines on the Mexican Wall.
As Roma put the spotlight on housemaids working around the world, the Oscars may have gone into areas never before traversed in such depth. Let’s just say that all the criticism about a white and male academy has been answered in this year’s Oscars at least.