On Feb. 9, the 92nd Academy Awards recognized talent and powerful storytelling within the film industry. However, social change often takes center stage at the leading award show in the U.S. The film industry has an authoritative voice when it comes to social progress, and the Oscars are a platform for influential celebrities to voice their political beliefs and bring awareness to the progress made on social issues or lack thereof.
In an industry stirred by movements, such as #MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite, the conversation around Oscars stands as a benchmark each year for the social change we wish to see in the world. This year, there were mixed feelings about the progression of social change.
There were definitely some breakthroughs this year. Not only did “Parasite” rack up best international film, original screenplay and best director, the South Korean thriller also made history as the first non-English language film to win best picture. Bong Joon Ho is the first Korean director to win the award and the second director of Asian descent.
Other progressive achievements include “Hair Love” winning best short film. The animated story, which was directed by Matthew A. Cherry, is about an African American father learning to do his daughter’s hair for the first time, promoting hair love amongst young men and women of color. Additionally, Taika Waititi won best adapted screenplay for “Jojo Rabbit” and dedicated his win to “all the indigenous kids of the world who want to do art and dance and write stories.”
Despite the triumphs, many criticized the lack of diversity in the nominees and the absence of women directors. In years prior, these groups have been consistently overlooked and undervalued by the Academy. Cynthia Erivo was the only person of color nominated across 20 acting categories, and all of the directing nominees were male. The Academy continues to receive backlash for their neglect of talented women and minorities in the industry.
DeVon Franklin, an African American film producer and governor on the Academy’s board, told CNN Business that he recognizes the Academy needs to make more progress.
“Every year, with every awards show, there are always going to be surprises and snubs,” Franklin said. “This season was no exception. For me, they are a reminder that there is still more change to be done for the industry at-large.”
Film has the ability to emotionally impact human beings, illuminate cultural and historical moments and ultimately cause societal change. In order to accomplish these progressive goals, cinematic storytellers must reach a diverse audience, and being a benchmark for where we stand as a society, the Academy has no choice but to recognize this diversity.
The curtains have closed on the 2020 Academy Awards, but the evolution of equality and diversity continues to take center stage.