The 93rd Academy Awards Focus on Inclusivity, Diversity; Challenges Pandemic Odds

Abiding by every pandemic-conscious precaution that they could have taken, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences insisted that the 93rd Academy Awards carry on, presenting the Oscars on April 25, 2021.

"It surely was a surprise," Nomadland (2020) producer Dan Janvey said, "I think a lot of us grew up watching the Oscars, and I've gotten used to that being last. And, yeah, it was, it was incredibly fun that they shook it up. And I thought that the producers did a great job making this possible for us to be in person and the whole Academy. As producers, it's hard to imagine what went into the making of this show. So very appreciative of that."

The art of film has always been a medium of communicating ideas, thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs from a variety of perspectives and worldviews; movies illustrate and reflect the narratives of life and the complications that come along with it. Actor Daniel Kaluuya, who won Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his work in Judas and the Black Messiah (2021), commented on the importance of telling Fred Hampton's story to broader audiences.

"I think it's just more.. just people are going to watch (inaudible)... more story, man. It's getting it out there and making sure people see who this man was and what this man did and what this man. He continues to get better. The fact that I continue to stand on this stage is because of what he did. I think it's just, that the legacy will continue. It will continue, and people will want to engage with the story and the film, and the man," Kaluuya said.

There has been a widespread vocalization against police brutality, and Short Film - Live Action winners Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe knew that they could further their message through the medium of film, using art as a political device. Entertainment is inherently political, giving creators like Free and Roe the ability to speak out and speak up about what they feel most passionate about, and what they feel needs attention called to.

"Two Distant Strangers started with an idea. I had an idea while we were out protesting and marching that was spurred on by how I was feeling about what I was seeing. How I was feeling about internalizing, you know, the pain of seeing so many Black people be killed at the hands of the police, and thinking about the emotional, you know, roller coaster you go on, every time you hear a new name and a new story, see the video," Free said, "It put me in the mindset of, you know, this feels like living the worst version of Groundhog Day. I had that thought to myself. It was something that I, you know, I couldn't put away. It would not go away. And so because it was the pandemic, and we weren't working, and we weren't doing anything, I felt like I wanted to probably sit down and do something with it."

The emphasis on understanding the diversity of the world across a variety of abilities struck film editor Mikkel E.G. Nielsen the most, who won the Oscar for Film Editing on Sound of Metal (2019). Following Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a heavy-metal drummer who faces hearing loss, the deaf experience is told with truth and transparency. When asked about editing a film reliant on audiovisual elements, Nielsen said "when I was approached, the director told me that he wanted to give a deaf person the feeling of the whole, to be able to see the movie as a whole and I, as a hearing person, would feel like a minority." Nielsen loved the idea and said that the use of sound would carry the storytelling, and explained that sound would embody Ruben's internal and external points of view.

"Always be with your main character," he said. "Be with Ruben. Then play around with the feeling of information, how much information does Ruben know, and how much information do we know? And as long as you stick with that. That's an editorial choice. That's the power of storytelling and sound because the sound is that physical feeling, that suddenly you may feel in your stomach, and it was just mind‑blowing to be able to work on such an amazing project for me."

Nomadland director Chloe Zhao noted the significance of her background as an Asain filmmaker, making history as the first Asian-American woman to win the Best Director category. "Well, I think it's for, you know, for Asian filmmakers, I think for all filmmakers we have to stay true to who we are," she said. "You know, and we have to tell the stories that we feel connected to. We shouldn't feel like there is only a certain type of story we have to tell. But it's a way for us to connect with other people. That is why I love filmmaking. You know? And hopefully a lot of the stories, brilliant stories we tell tonight [as] Tyler Perry said, that was a beautiful speech about let's get together, and let's stop hate, hate for anybody." With a surprising win, Nomadland also took home the title of Best Picture.

While celebrating her win of the Music (Original Song) Oscar, H.E.R. is proud and aware of her influence on today's young people of color as a Black, Filipino woman, and how symbolic she is to multiple communities. "Me just being up there is a message. It's a message to all the young Black and Filipino girls, Black or Filipino, you know, that you can be up here too, you know? What you say matters, what you say matters, what you play, what you write, it matters. It's a reflection of who we are, and I'm just happy to represent [it]. I can't believe I'm here, you know? So I just hope there is another little girl out there, whoever, you know, going I can do that too, I can be up there too one day."


*A press pass was issued to the reporter for coverage of this event.*

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