By Marvel Kalukembi, Research and Admin Assistant
In a year where the film industry has been deeply impacted due to COVID-19 restrictions on film sets and the closures of cinemas, it was difficult to predict the outcome of this year’s award ceremony.
According to UCLA’s bi-annual Hollywood Diversity report, on average, films with between 41-50% minority casts fared best at the box office, while films with less than 11% minorities fared worst.
While film studios had to hold off releasing their big budget cinema attractions, streaming services picked up many mid-range films. What this did was create greater accessibility for smaller budget films to reach new audiences who were actively seeking more diverse content to stream and engage with.
In true Oscars fashion, this was another year of ‘firsts’ Asian-American director Chloe Zhao being the first non-white woman to win ‘Best Director’ for ‘Nomadland’. Fresh off making history as the first Asian woman to win Best Director at the Golden Globes, Zhao became only the second woman to win after Kathryn Bigelow in 2010.
The yearly Celluloid Ceiling report by San Diego State University found that women accounted for 16% of directors working on the 100 highest grossing films in 2020, up from 12% in 2019.
With the percentage accounted for women of colour film directors being even less, Zhao’s win symbolises a necessary step not only for diversity but also for more diverse representation behind and in front of the camera.
Veteran South Korean actress, Youn Yun-Jung won best-supporting actress for her role in Minari (2020) and became the first South Korean Asian woman to win in the category since 1957.
Jung’s nomination is an accomplishment that no South Korean actor has received. Despite the success of ‘Parasite’ last year, there was no individual recognition for any of its cast.
This year’s Oscars Awards Ceremony saw another diverse step forward not only for actors, directors but also, hair and makeup teams receiving recognition for their contribution to the film industry.
Hair Stylists, Mia Neal, and Jamika Wilson were the first Black women to be nominated for and win the Best Makeup and Hairstyling Award for their work on ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’, alongside Sergio-Lopez Rivera.
Daniel Kaluuya became the first ever Black British actor to win an Oscar for his outstanding performance in ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’. First introduced to our British television screens as ‘Posh Kenneth’ in the original cast of ‘Skins’.
The success that Kaluuya has continued to accumulate since captivating the Hollywood audience with his performances in ‘Get Out’, ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Queen and Slim’ to name a few; is a proud moment for Black British actors and the film community in London.
Kaluuya took home the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ award and in his acceptance speech, he said: “ To Fred Hampton… thank you for your life.”
Moments after his win, Chairman Fred Hampton Jr shared an intimate bittersweet moment with Daniel Kaluuya and thanked him for his earnest portrayal of his father.
The full list of winners and nominees of the night can be found on the official Oscars website.