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DIVERSITY PREVAILS AT THE 93RD ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS



ON SUNDAY APRIL 25TH, CHLOE ZHAO BECAME THE FIRST WOMAN OF COLOR TO WIN THE OSCAR FOR BEST DIRECTOR. HISTORY WAS ALSO MADE THIS YEAR WITH IT BEING THE FIRST TIME TWO WOMEN (ZHAO AND EMERALD FENNEL) WERE NOMINATED IN THE BEST DIRECTOR CATEGORY.




"Of course, it's the year of the woman. Every year is ours."


The 93rd annual Academy Awards, also known as The Oscars, aired Sunday, April 25 on ABC during a 'new normal' for the film industry. Due to the ongoing struggles from Covid-19, Producers took proper precautions; Limited seating inside the Dolby theater, Covid testing, and part of the show was filmed outside at union station in Los Angeles.


The pandemic wasn't the only thing new to the awards show. This year, two women made history. Emerald Fennell and Chloe Zhao were both nominated for best director. This is the first time two women were selected in the category at the same time. And on the night that is like a Super bowl for movie fans, Chloe Zhao made history again as the first woman of color to win Best Director for her film, "Nomadland."

For most of its tenure, The Oscars and diversity did not go hand in hand. The Academy of motion picture arts and sciences has garnered a reputation for being primarily white, male, and an average of 64 years old. Although the face of the Academy is changing, adding more women and people of color to the prestigious group that votes for the Oscars, it still is not an equal playing field.

Women's rights activist Eartha Sullivan says she appreciates the turn the Academy has taken but feels there is more work to be done,

"Don't forget the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite which was only about five years ago. Halle Berry was the last black woman to win the best actress, which was in 2002."



The Best Director category, much like its counterparts, looks the same on the Oscars timeline. Nominees are majority male, winners are majority male, and almost all are Caucasian.

Only five women have ever been nominated in the best director category before this year. Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties (1977), Jane Campion for the Piano (1994), Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation (2004), Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (2009), and Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird (2018). Among those nominated, Bigelow was the only woman to win the Oscar for Best Director.



THE RESEARCH


Academy members don't vote for all categories, but they are separated into branches. There's the actor's brand, writers branch, etc.

"Diversity may be growing in the academy, but the director's branch hasn't necessarily reached parity," stated the article, The Academy declined to share the gender breakdowns of the director's branch with TIME, but the rules to join are structured in a way that might limit the number of women directors who are able to gain entry."


The Academy's website states that members must have at least two directorial credits, at least one of which had to premiere in theaters in the last ten years. The films must also be deemed a caliber that reflects the high standard of the Academy in the opinion of the executive committee. The truth is, although the rules seem reasonable enough, TIME argued they present a significant obstacle for female directors who receive fewer opportunities to direct a second film,

"Women directed just 4% of the top 1200 films from 2007 to 2018. Of those female directors, only 17.4% had gotten to direct another movie beyond their debut feature (13% directed a second, 2.2% a third, and 2.2% a fourth). By contrast, 45.7% of men who made a top movie in the last decade had gotten to direct more movies after their feature


film debut (21% a second, 13.1% a third, 6.2% a fourth, and 5.5% a fifth or more). (Annenberg Institute)


A year later and according to the 2021 UCLA bi-annual Hollywood Diversity Report aptly subtitled "Pandemic in Progress," Hollywood made strides concerning inclusion for women and people of color both in front of and behind the camera,


"For the first time since the report launched in 2014, people of color were represented in the lead actor, and total cast categories at levels proportionate to their presence in the American populace — 39.7% and 42%, respectively. People of color make up 40.3% of the U.S. population."

The analysis also looked at the correlation between casts and directors' racial and gender diversity.

"In 2020, nearly all of the films with a female director also featured a female lead (94.7%). Films directed by minorities had the highest level of cast diversity. And 78.3% of films directed by people of color featured minority leads."

The historical moments of this year's Oscars prove the research is correct.

"For the first time since the report launched in 2014, people of color were represented in the lead actor, and total cast categories at levels proportionate to their presence in the American populace — 39.7% and 42%, respectively. People of color make up 40.3% of the U.S. population."

The analysis also looked at the correlation between casts and directors' racial and gender diversity.

"In 2020, nearly all of the films with a female director also featured a female lead (94.7%). Films directed by minorities had the highest level of cast diversity. And 78.3% of films directed by people of color featured minority leads."

The historical moments of this year's Oscars prove the research is correct.


WOMEN MAKING HISTORY



"Promising Young Woman," Directed by Emerald Fennell, stars Carey Mulligan as someone traumatized by a tragic event from her past. She seeks out revenge against the men who crossed her path. This is a story that falls right into place with the #metoo movement.





Fennell was adamant about shining a light on 'seduction culture' but with a cinematic revenge plot.

Fennell did not win the award for Best Director, but her film did win for Best Original Screenplay, which is another success for diversity at the Oscars.

In an interview with Fennell and the cast of "Promising Young Woman," before the Oscars nominations were revealed, Fennell told Lauren Loves It,

"This is a story I wanted to tell not because of the industry, but it was more about a specific consent issue. And nothing that happens in my film is new to the network comedies and studio comedies."




"Nomadland", directed by Chloe Zhao, stars Frances McDormand, who, after losing everything, embarks on a journey through American West, living in a van and dwelling as a modern-day nomad, meeting other nomads along the way. Zhao uses scripted scenes in most of the movie and features real-life nomads in a documentary format.


AND THE OSCAR GOES TO…



Chloe Zhao is not only the first woman of color to win the coveted best director, but she is also the first woman of Asian descent to win in the category.

We often leave out the overwhelming absence of Asian American talent, but they must be represented as well. Nominations like Zhao's and Yuh-Jung Youn [for best-supporting actress in 2020's "Minari"] show me that the Academy is listening to our demands for diversity across the board.

The entertainment industry looks completely different than that very first Academy Awards show on May 16, 1929. It is time for the Academy to represent the industry's current hue filled with all races, backgrounds, genders, identities, and beliefs.


Yuh-Jung Youn wins the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress (MINARI)

On September 8, 2020, the Oscars published new inclusion standards for Oscar's eligibility in the best picture category as a part of the Academy Aperture 2025 initiative. It states, "The standards are designed to encourage equitable representation on and off-screen to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience."

The plan is for the 94th Oscars and beyond. The aperture will widen, and specific standards must be met to be deemed eligible for a nomination. There must be diversity in on-screen representation, with at least 30 % of the ensemble cast being from underrepresented groups. Behind the camera, Department heads and creative leaders must also be partly from minority groups, and training and skills development must be available to all groups.

Sullivan believes this initiative is the first aggressive step the Academy is taking,

"I like to see this in writing. I like that there is a plan and a deadline for the plan to be implemented. Good Job, Oscar. Good Job."
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