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Article | Chloe Zhao, Kathryn Bigelow and the problematic history of the Oscars and cinema



The 2021 awards season ended on April 25 with the announcement of the Oscar winners, bringing several surprises, especially when it comes to the most important categories, and some wins that shocked no one, so to speak.

Chloe Zhao, a Chinese director who made 93 editions of history after the official start of the Oscars, was perhaps the highlight of the evening as she won the following awards: best director and best film for the poetic ‘Nomadland‘ . Zhao’s victory served to paint a new portrait of a doomed jury through the #OscarSoWhite movement, which denounced the lack of representation of blacks, indigenous peoples, Asians and many others to constitute the position of the voters – this is why most films have emerged. victorious in the hands of heterosexual white men.

Zhao’s victory raised questions not only about male chauvinism, but also about the racism faced by filmmakers who have never even had the chance to compete among the “favorites” of the mainstream scene. Zhao became, in nearly a hundred years of the Oscars edition, the second woman to bring home the statuette for best achievement – and the first woman of color to achieve such a feat (which had already been premeditated by her dozens of awards previously received, such as Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Critics’ Choice). But what does this really mean?

Let’s put the facts on the table: before her, only Kathryn Bigelow had received the award in question because of her fine work on the drama “War on Terror”. Presented by the legendary Barbra Streisand, Bigelow became the first director to be recognized and, contrary to what many imagined, things wouldn’t be much different in a few years. In addition to the duo, only five other women competed in the category: Emerald Fennell (“Bela Vingança”, 2020); Greta Gerwig (‘Lady Bird’, 2017, snubbed by the flawless remake of ‘Adorable Women’); Sofia Coppola (“Encontros e Desencontros”, 2003, also forgotten by the recent “On the Rocks”); Jane Campion (“The Piano”, 1993); and Lina Wertmüller (“Pasqualino Sete Belezas”, 1976). Yes, that’s right: only seven of the hundreds of directors were women – and that’s without commenting on some powerful names that were overlooked due to very explicit prejudice.

According to recent studies from Women in TV & Film, an organization that observes the female presence in the entertainment scene, women have made a record appearance in the 100 most successful films of the past year – but the percentage is maybe not as high as you imagine. : 21% (compared to 20% compared to 2019). To further refine the analysis, women represented 16% of directors in the same body of studies (up from 12% in 2019 and 4% in 2018), reflecting well-deserved, albeit slow, growth over two consecutive years.

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In an even more drastic comparison, women accounted for only 23% of the employability behind the camera (therefore excluding actresses) in the 250 most successful films of 2020, against 77% of men called upon to edit, write or even direct. feature films. In 1998, just a few years ago, the percentage was relatively similar: 17% for women and 83% for men – showing that, even with several protests and a unique need for artistic transformation, the storyline changes to small steps.

At the same ceremony, women of color had an incredible turnout, as did Yuh-Jung Youn, the Academy’s favorite in the Best Supporting Actress category. Having appeared in Lee Isaac Chung’s acclaimed drama ‘Minari’, she became the first South Korean actress to pull off the feat, following in the footsteps of Bong Joon-ho’s recent and multiple victories with ‘Parasite’ non-English to win best film). Youn also made history at BAFTA, in which he thanked British voters for recognizing a foreign artist for accepting the honor. HER, in turn, became the second black female artist to win the Oscar for Best Original Song for the flawless surrender of “Fight for You” from the movie “Judas and the Black Messiah”.

In this regard, the black female presence is another subject to be debated and, despite the good news of the 2021 edition, the scenario is still far from ideal: in 2015, the Academy went through one of its most great controversies, precisely with regard to biography ‘Selma’ (2014). The feature film, directed by Ava DuVernay (“ The Eyes That Condemn, ” “ The 13th Amendment ”), was one of the only (if not the only) nominated only for Best Picture and Another Category which does not integrate the main sections of the award, Best Song, winning in the latter. In an interview with Screen Daily last year, star David Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King Jr. in production, commented that the protests against the #BlackLivesMatter movement had an impact on Oscar membership voting – in done, all along the rewards journey.

At the time, Oyelowo said that “[o lançamento de] “Selma” had coincided with the murder of Eric Garner. It was the last time we were at the “I can’t breathe” place. I remember when the premiere [do filme], we wore t-shirts with [a frase] in protest. The Academy members presented this to the studio and our producers saying, “How dare they do that? Why are they playing with this shit ”and“ We’re not going to vote for this movie because we don’t believe it’s theirs to do that ””.

When the scandalous news hit the world, DuVernay herself was keen to share it on her official Twitter page with the brief words: “real story,” calling attention to the continued boycott of the black female community – after all. , John Legend and Common won the award for Best Original Song for “Glory” in 2015. Of the only Oscar-nominated directors, only Zhao broke the wave of “white supremacy” that dominated the nominees; no black woman has been nominated in the category to date, more than nine decades since the first ceremony. Regina King, applauded at the Venice Film Festival for the incredible “A Night in Miami”, has been completely overlooked by the Academy, although the film is nominated in other sections.

According to information from UCLA (Diversity Report 2020), 1.5 in ten directors were people of color, or 15.1% of those recruited by the major studios against 84.9% of white directors. Of 146 film productions observed, only two were black women among the eight films that brought in black directors; two were Asian women among the five analyzed; and one represented the Latin community among the four analyzed. When it comes to screenwriters, the number is even smaller: only 13.9% of people hired by large companies were people of color (with no female presence analyzed among blacks, Latinos and Asians).

Among the numbers, it is almost obvious to imagine that few of them have fallen on the radar of the Academy, whose preference lies mainly in the comfort zone that will not “attack” a company of extreme conservatism and carried by the artistic patriarchy.

Oscar, as well as the cinema itself, still has a lot to improve in terms of representativeness – which is evidenced by the multiple data presented above. The truth is that in 93 years of existence, the entertainment scene has always touched the same problematic and historical key, diminishing or erasing the existence of women and allowing men to have the final say, in a cyclical insistence on #OscarSoWhite and # OscarSoMale.

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