A few years ago, the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite shed light on the blatant lack of representation in those being acknowledged for their efforts in the film industry. Well, it seems that the powers-that-be certainly took notice because 2019 was the year that we saw the most diverse list of nominees and winners. Here are some of the moments that had us feeling all the feels:
1. Pete Ramsey: The First Black Director to Win Best Animated Film
Pete Ramsey became the first Black director to win an Oscar for “Best Animated Film” for his masterpiece, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”.
“We love you, and we just want you all to know, we see you. You’re powerful. This world needs you, okay, this world needs you. So please, we’re all counting on you,” Ramsey said of the countless minorities who have gone their whole lives without seeing themselves represented in film. Overall, this film had the most diverse cast in the Marvel cinematic universe, and that is absolutely something to celebrate. This film teaches its audience that anyone can be a hero.
2. Rami Malek Becomes First American Egyptian to Win “Best Actor” Oscar
“I am a son of immigrant parents from Egypt. I’m first generation American,” announced Rami Malek as he made history. This moment was nothing less than aspirational for our Coptic brothers and sisters, who continue to face persecution in Egypt.
3. “Black Panther” Wins Big for Costume and Production Design
Last night, Hannah Beachler became the first African American woman to be nominated for and to win the Oscar for her production design work for “Black Panther”. Additionally, fellow African American, Ruth E. Carter, swiftly followed by earning an Oscar for “Best Costume Design”, thus making her the first Black woman to do so. As if that wasn’t enough, “Black Panther” also won the Oscar for “Original Score”! Not only was this a huge win for Marvel, but it was also a huge win for the idea that stories told by minorities are worthy of being heard. It was incredible to see a film like “Black Panther” win not one, but three Oscars!
4. Mahershala Ali Becomes the First Muslim Actor to Win 2 Oscars
“Green Book” won “Best Picture” and “Best Actor in a Supporting Role”! As an American Muslim, this was especially exciting to see since I don’t remember ever seeing a Muslim win an Oscar before. It’s a step in the right direction, and I hope that we see more Muslims in the film industry so that our stories get told in a positive light.
5. “Roma” Wins Best Foreign Film
Director Alfonso Cuaron’s deeply personal tale following social cohesion throughout sociopolitical upheaval in Mexico took the prize for “Best Foreign Film”. The former director of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” said, “To create a single frame of film, as you well know, requires the work of a lot of people, very hard work.” By the end of the night, Cuaron’s film had won two awards—”Best Director” and “Best Cinematography”. I haven’t watched this film yet, but after hearing about it during the Oscars, I’m interested in seeing it.
6. Rayka Zehtabchi Becomes First Iranian-American Woman to Win an Oscar
The short documentary based in India, “Period. End of Sentence,” won the Academy Award for “Best Documentary Short Subject” category. In addition to its frank discussion about a taboo topic, the triumph meant that the director Rayka Zehtabchi became the first Iranian-American woman to win an Oscar. This documentary is important for India’s #MeToo movement and for the fact that it openly talked about periods publicly. It’s an open and honest discussion for anyone who’s interested in seeing it. Surely, Rayka said it best when she exclaimed, “I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!”
7. “Roma” and “The Favourite” Tied for the Most Oscar Nominations
What a wonderful thought that a foreign film took front-and-center stage at the Oscars on the same night that actor Diego Luna made a statement by starting his speech in Spanish, and Javier Bardem claimed, loud and proud, that “There are no borders or walls that can restrain ingenuity and talent.”
8. Spike Lee Wins His First Academy Award for “BlacKkKlansman”
After regaling us with tales of his family history, Lee left us with a simple message about the 2020 election:
“Let’s all mobilize, let’s all be on the right side of history….Make the moral choice between love versus hate. LET’S DO THE RIGHT THING!”
Although Lee finally got his Oscar, he claimed that he should’ve gotten it sooner, according to the CBS report on the Oscars. We couldn’t agree more, and we hope that this beautiful display of diversity is the first of many for an awards show that spurred the hashtag, “Oscars So White”!
Regardless of whether or not you watched the Oscars this year, this list highlighted what I thought were the most important parts of the night. I think that there was a lot more diversity this year than usual, which I believe is a step in the right direction. What’s important now, however, is that we continue to hold those in power responsible to ensure that diverse stories continue to get the attention they deserve!