Oscar for diversity! Academy wouldn’t win this if it did exist despite Parasite’s big win

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Published: February 12, 2020 5:15:19 AM

The awards wouldn’t win this, if it did exist, despite Parasite’s big win.

Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win the best director award.

In a first in the award’s 92-year history, the Oscar for Best Picture went to a film in a language other than English, to the Korean Parasite. That was enough for a torrent of self-congratulatory press for Hollywood. The award has a history of lonely ‘firsts’—wonderful, larger-than-the-optics recognition of diversity in talent that had no follow-through. The Oscars have received much criticism for failing to recognise the talent of women film-makers. Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win the best director award; a decade since her win, only one woman has been nominated—Greta Gerwig, in 2018, for Lady Bird—and this year, none. Ironically, Gerwig received a Critics Choice nomination this year for Little Women, and 2019 saw the most movies ever by female directors that went on to both, garner critical acclaim, and become top-grossers (Hustlers, The Farewell, Queen and Slim).

The Oscars this year escaped being an all-White affair by the skin of its teeth. Hair Love, whose directors are both Black, won the award for Best Animated Short Film, and Cynthia Erivo was the only person of colour to receive a nomination across twenty spots in the four acting categories. This, despite major changes in the Academy’s membership and governance board to make it more inclusive having been announced in 2016, and multiple actors belonging to ethnic minorities not only being nominated but also winning at precursor awards. While the lack of representation at the Academy Awards is cause for concern, it is perhaps better addressed as a symptom of deeper Hollywood biases. Much needs to be done before Hollywood’s celluloid ceiling is broken.

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