Hollywood’s biggest night took place last Sunday. The Oscars gave us inspirational new firsts in representation and showed us all the colours in the film industry. Surely we say, the Oscars ceremony turned into a record-breaking night for diversity. Just three years ago, The Academy received backlash and boycotts in both 2015 and 2016 when only white actors were nominated for the major 20 awards. In both years, the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag trended on Twitter. Many celebrities chose not to attend the awards ceremony in protest. And this year, Oscars marked a win!
In a record-breaking Academy Awards ceremony, 10 people of colour won awards across various categories. Spike Lee took home his first competitive Oscar for “BlacKkKlansman”’s script and, for the first time, three out of the four top acting awards were won by non-white actors as Regina King triumphed for her supporting performance in “If Beale Street Could Talk”, Mahershala Ali bagged the best supporting win for “Green Book”, and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” co-director Peter Ramsey took home a trophy for Best Animated Feature while the son of Egyptian immigrants Rami Malek won Best Actor for “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
How can we ever forget – the instant-fossil “Green Book” won Best Picture! This year’s Oscars also gave us winners like costume designer Ruth E. Carter and production designer Hannah Beachler, both for “Black Panther”, making them the first black victors in each category.
Need to be mentioned, this year’s Oscars saw a different, commendable and long-time-coming inclusion to the racial progress. Director Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” become the first Mexican film to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film, and it also received the award for Best Cinematography. Cuarón made history with the later win, as it allowed him to become the first person to ever win a Cinematography Oscar for a film he also directed. He was also given the award for Best Director at Sunday’s ceremony. Well, it might have been nice to see more Latino winners than “Roma” writer-director-cinematographer Alfonso Cuarón, but you can’t deny the fact that this was a meaningful victory for a foreign-language film and has set to open up the door wide.
Women and women of colour have gotten their fair share of recognition on that night too. Besides Regina King, Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler, director of Pixar’s “Bao”, Domee Shi received the Oscar for Best Animated Short alongside producer Becky Neiman-Cobb. In addition to being the only woman to have directed a Pixar short film, Shi became the first woman of colour to receive this award. Also, Rayka Zehtabchi took Best Live-Action Short for “Period. End of Sentence”; and “Free Solo” filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi took Best Documentary Feature.
2019 Oscars really did a great job and stood in stark contrast to the #OscarsSoWhite backlash. However, it’s important to remember that Oscar-nominated and -winning films capture just a slice of the film industry’s output. Of course, there’s still significant progress to be made. This level of public recognition for on-screen and behind-the-scenes diversity is long overdue, but Sunday’s ceremony did give us hope for the future of Hollywood.