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Women make herstory at the Oscars!

Women made herstory at the Oscars on Sunday with three major wins in spite of representing little more than a quarter of the nominations. 

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The Oscar dust has settled and we’re left balancing the positive moments from those paving the way for representation and inclusivity in cinema with this year’s significant setbacks.

Sian Heder’s CODA won Best Picture, the third film to win helmed by a female director. The award was presented by Liza Minelli and Lady Gaga who shared a touching “I got you” moment almost 50 years following Minelli’s Best Actress win for CABARET. Heder also scooped Best Adapted Screenplay, the seventh woman to do so, and a first for a story told partially in Sign Language – “a beautifully cinematic language” as Heder referred to it. Following fellow cast member Marlee Matlin’s win in 1987 for CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD, CODA’s Troy Kotsur became the second deaf actor to win an Oscar, saying “this is for the deaf community, the CODA community, and the disabled community. This is our moment.” Catch it on Apple TV+ (with SDH/AD) here.

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We’re also celebrating Ariana DeBose’s win for Best Supporting Actress (for WEST SIDE STORY) – the first openly queer woman of colour and second Latina to ever win an acting Oscar. DeBose paid tribute to “the divine inspiration that is Rita Moreno” who won an Oscar for the very same role 60 years earlier. In her speech, DeBose spoke of being “an openly queer woman of colour, an Afro-Latina who found her strength in life through art” and urging “anyone who has ever questioned your identity, or you find yourself living in the grey spaces, I promise you this: there is indeed a place for us”

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Jane Campion became the third woman to win Best Director for the celebrated THE POWER OF THE DOG. Catch it on Netflix (with CC/AD) here. Of her win she said: “I’m very proud to have won tonight for my film and my crew and my cast, but also just to be another woman who’s going to be followed by a 6th, 7th, 8th. Very excited that this is moving fast now. We need it. Equality matters.” It shows an optimism for the future but let’s not forget Campion is only the seventh female director to be nominated in the Academy Awards’ 94-year history.

While these were some of the positive moments from this year’s Oscars, overall the bigger picture requires scrutiny. There was a regression in nominations for women from 30% in 2020, 32% in 2021 down to 27% in 2022, and to further the disappointment, 12 of which were for THE POWER OF THE DOG alone. 

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The event itself made positive steps to be inclusive of D/deaf and disabled audiences, including the use of live audio description and closed captions; however, though ASL interpretation was available throughout online, the only speeches interpreted on TV were those relating to CODA rather than for all. 

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We can reflect on this year’s Oscars and celebrate the progress made by those paving the way for greater representation and inclusivity in cinema. 

Here’s hoping for future Academy Awards with greater diversity of nominations for women, where neither misogynoir nor physical assault on stage is tolerated, with greater access and inclusion for all, and as for Best Director wins for women, a “6th, 7th, 8th…”

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