An In-Depth Intersectional Guide to the 2017 Oscar Nominees
#OscarsSoWhite may not apply as strongly this year, but we still have a long way to go. With that in mind, here are WYV’s intersectional Oscar picks.
The Oscars are upon us and the awards will be given out February 26. It’s rare that Oscar season is a super exciting time for folks here, since nearly every year it’s a display of wealthy white privilege and nepotism.
Thankfully, the 2017 season is a little bit different, with picks like Fences, Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Star Wars: Rogue One, Moana, Lion and Loving, among others. Six Black actors and actresses have been nominated, including breakthrough performances from Naomie Harris, Ruth Negga and Mahershala Ali and staples like Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Denzel Washington.
However, the Los Angeles Times points out that one group that seems to be conspicuously missing is the Latinx. While no one seems to have really been snubbed, there were not many roles for Latinx actors this year. In fact, the Times points to a 2016 report by USC which found that Latinx got only 5 percent of speaking roles in the top-grossing 100 films released in 2015. Considering the growing Latinx population in America, this is a major problem when it comes to representation.
While #OscarsSoWhite may be less applicable this year, we still have a long way to go. With these things in mind, here are the Wear Your Voice intersectional picks for you to check out.
2017 Best Picture
Synopsis: Troy Maxson, a former star player in the Negro Leagues, lives with his wife Rose and teenage son Cory in Pittsburgh in 1957. Troy is bitter about missing the integration of professional baseball, and his caustic attitudes toward life and race relations taint his relationship with Cory, an aspiring football player.
Why It Matters: This film is a beautifully complex story about the inner workings of a Black family and the deep emotional processes of the troubled patriarch and his loyal wife and son, who are deeply affected by his hurt. Davis captures the pain and hurt of a wife who has watched her husband struggle with thoughts of what could have been and resentment toward his son, who may be able to live the dream that he could never have. Based on a pivotal 1983 play by August Wilson, Fences is the sixth play in Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle.” The Cycle is a series of plays set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, over the 10 decades of the 20th century. Perhaps we will get the opportunity to see more of The Cycle brought to the big screen thanks to the success of Fences.
Synopsis: In the early 1960s, as the U.S. seeks to surpass the Soviet Union in the space race, three mathematically and scientifically gifted African-American women must cope with racism and sexism while performing vital tasks at NASA’s segregated Virginia facilities.
Why It Matters: How many times did you, as a child, see someone on television and say “I want to be that when I grow up?” Hidden Figures uncovers the hidden story of Black women who literally put humans on the moon in a time when desegregation was still taking place. Women who may not have been able to sit down at the same lunch counter as their white neighbors were doing the advanced calculations to win the space race.
Perhaps this film will force schools to teach this incredible piece of history that has been overlooked for far too long and inspire young people of all races and ethnicities to pursue history-changing careers in STEM.
Synopsis: After being separated from his family in India, five-year-old Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple, who raise him with great love. As an adult, however, Saroo is troubled by resurfacing memories of his birth family and employs new worldwide technology to locate them.
Why It Matters: Lion captures the struggle of a young Indian man who is adopted and straddles two cultures, desperate to find his family of origin. By retracing his life using Google Earth, Saroo Brierly is able to relocate his lost family and finally find them after 25 years. It’s a beautiful story worth telling and highlights the life of an Indian man, which is rare in Hollywood.
Synopsis: As he grows from childhood to adulthood in Miami, a young black man grapples with surviving the poverty and drugs that pervade his neighborhood, establishing his own identity and accepting his sexuality. Under the influences of his drug-addicted mother, a kindly surrogate father and a conflicted best friend, the youth finds his way in life.
Why It Matters: A film on father-son relationships, queer Black identity, and growing up in an Afro-Latinx community, nothing like Moonlight has ever graced big screens before. If representation matters, then this film not only represents these identities, but is sparking a great deal of discussion around them.
WYV writer Michal “MJ” Jones sums it up beautifully: “It simultaneously confirms, explores and challenges the stereotype of Black communities as inherently homophobic. Although the larger setting of the film speaks to the problems of toxic masculinity that produces hatred of gay men, it also shows unwavering acceptance. … In all of its imperfections, symbolism and complex narrative, Moonlight is not only a compelling and gripping drama — it is one that so many Black gay, queer and trans communities have been waiting for.”
Best Actress In A Leading Role
Ruth Negga, Loving.
In her first Academy Award-nominated role, Ruth Negga portrays Mildred, a kind woman of Black and Native American ancestry whose love for Richard, her white husband, ends up changing the laws regarding interracial marriage in the United States. Despite being harassed by bigots and the horribly racist anti-miscegenation laws of 1958, the Lovings crossed the border to Washington, D.C., in order to make their union legal after learning that Ruth was pregnant. After an arduous battle, Loving v. Virginia overturned state laws forbidding interracial marriages in 1967.
This talented Ethiopian-Irish actress has been on our radar since 2005’s Breakfast On Pluto. We are eager to see what roles will come to her as a result of this nomination.
Best Supporting Actor/Actress:
We are thrilled to see Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Viola Davis (Fences), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Dev Patel, (Lion), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) and Denzel Washington (Fences) all nominated for Best Supporting Actor or Actress.
Fire At Sea
Synopsis: When hundreds of thousands of African and Middle Eastern refugees flee their homes, their first stop in Europe is often the Sicilian island of Lampedusa. While the local doctor struggles to provide the new arrivals with healthcare, other residents, such as 12-year-old Samuele and his friends, go about their everyday lives with almost no interaction with the immigrants.
Why It Matters: The migrant crisis is desperately important, with refugees from the Middle East and Africa seeking help. It’s not just an important issue for Europeans, but it is a humanitarian issue which affects people across the globe.
I Am Not Your Negro
Synopsis: In 1979, author James Baldwin wrote a 30-page letter outlining a biography of slain civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Although Baldwin’s proposed manuscript was never completed, his letter and other writings serve as fuel for an examination of race relations in America.
Why It Matters: Everyone in America should see I Am Not Your Negro. James Baldwin’s voice was an integral part of the Civil Rights movement and Black America, a brilliant mind and voice on everything that was happening at the time — and sadly continues today. Voices like Baldwin and his contemporaries should be part of the grade-school curriculum, but since they are not, we must educate ourselves and our nation.
Synopsis: Shortly after he turned three, Owen Suskind, the son of journalist Ron Suskind and his wife Cornelia, stopped speaking. Owen was diagnosed with autism, but as the years passed, his family discovered that he had memorized the dialogue of every Disney animated film. As he has grown to adulthood, Owen has gained vital life skills through his connection to animated movies.
Why It Matters: Life, Animated explores the life of a man with autism. While autism affects approximately 1 in 68 children in America, much of the country has very little understanding about or empathy for how autistic minds work and how a large part of the world navigates life. This is just one vignette of such a life, as Suskind uses animated cinema as a tool to navigate the world around him.
Synopsis: African Americans have continued to suffer since the passing of the 13th Amendment. Popular media demonize people of color, Jim Crow laws prohibit real growth and black leaders were assassinated in the 1960s. The politically motivated “war on drugs” penalizes more people of color than whites, and the mass incarceration of blacks in the U.S. has led to a booming prison industry.
Why It Matters: The 13th Ammendment to the Constitution of the United States makes it illegal for anyone to be held as a slave. However, there are exceptions to the rule, including criminals, and due to institutionalized racism within the U.S. and especially the legal system, this disproportionally effects BIPOC people. These exceptions to the constitution allow for a disproportionate number of Black and Brown people to be imprisoned and exploited for their labor. It is our duty as Americans of all races and ethnic backgrounds to fight against the exploitation of other humans.
Best Documentary (Short Subject)
Synopsis: At the Intensive Care Unit at Highland Hospital in Oakland, California, palliative care specialist Dr. Jessica Zitter treats terminally ill patients. As she and her team provide the best possible care, they try to help the patients and their loved ones make critical, often heartbreaking decisions.
Why It Matters: In a time where the Affordable Care Act is being gutted by the new conservative administration, we are forced to make tough decisions. This film is important because it shows diverse families who rely on the ACA struggling to make incredibly hard healthcare decisions, trapped between finances, faith and the natural course of life.
Synopsis: Kyriakos Papadopoulos, a captain in the Greek Coast Guard, is caught in the struggle of refugees fleeing the Middle East and traveling the short distance from the coast of Turkey to the island of Lesbos. Despite having limited resources, the captain and his crew attempt to save lives during the immense humanitarian crisis.
Why It Matters: Nearly any empathetic voice that can be given to the humanitarian crisis that has fallen upon the Mediterranean and Middle East is important right now. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 4.8 million have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, and 6.6 million are internally displaced within Syria. Meanwhile about one million have requested asylum to Europe.
Synopsis: During a drive to donate musical instruments to public schools, 91-year-old Holocaust survivor Joseph Feingold offers his beloved violin, which he has played for more than 70 years. The instrument goes to the Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls, where young musician Brianna Perez is inspired to become friends with her benefactor.
Why It Matters: The Trump Administration is slashing arts funding. Films like this illuminate the already dismal access to the arts that many children have and highlight how important access is. It’s also a beautiful story between folks of different generations having faced different forms of trauma and oppression who are able to bond over their love of music.
Watani: My Homeland
Synopsis: Four young children live with their mother and father, a Free Syrian Commander, in a warzone in Aleppo, Syria. After their father is captured by ISIS, the children flee with their mother to Goslar, Germany, in a years-long journey that will test them all as they try to find a safe home in a foreign country.
Why It Matters: When we hear about wars, we do not always think of the effect on children and how that trauma informs the rest of their (hopefully) long lives. This short illustrates just how deeply war has affected these four young children over the course of three years. This is just one war, but the wounds are universal for children in similar situations across the globe.
The White Helmets
Synopsis: In the chaos of war-torn Syria, unarmed and neutral civilian volunteers known as “the white helmets” comb through the rubble after bombings to rescue survivors. Although they have already saved more than 60,000 lives since 2013, these brave first responders continue to place themselves in danger every day.
Why It Matters: These everyday citizens are the first responders after a bombing in the Syrian Civil War. They risk their own lives to dig survivors out of the rubble, saving many people in the process. The White Helmets have a motto: “To save a life is to save all of humanity.” Watch this in honor of their courage and selflessness.
We encourage you to check out as many of these intersectional masterpieces as possible! For a full list of Oscar nominees, check out official Academy Awards page. Who or what are your picks? Leave a comment below!
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