The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
The Oscars is undoubtedly a mark on the cinematography industry, and the 2023 edition was the one with the most Asian indications and winners. The 95th edition of the award portrays representativity — but what is the importance of this achievement for the Asian community and how will it affect the future of productions?
The movie Everything Everywhere All at Once boosted the Asian representativity on the last Sunday night, March 12th. Although the production is American, a big part of the cast is of Asian descent, as is one of the directors, Daniel Kawan. Among the 11 categories nominated, the feature won seven, being the most awarded and nominated of the edition.
In addition, according to IGN, Everything Everywhere All at Once replaces Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as the feature film with the most cumulative awards. The 2022 film totals 165 wins for the season.
Chances in the audiovisual industry
Every year the Asian productions win more highlights in world awards. In 2020, the movie Parasite, which won as the best movie in Oscars, drew attention to a market that, until then, had been little televised in the West when compared to Hollywood productions. The highlight of the edition was the first South Korean winner in more than 90 years of the award.
Thus, stories such as Parasite and Everything Everywhere at Once increasingly leverage Asian representation. According to Krystal Cortez Luz Urbano, PhD in communication and Deputy Coordinator of MidiÁsia, the changes that have occurred in recent years, in cultural, political and economic terms, point to an ongoing loss of the centrality of the United States and the place of universality occupied by the English language as the standard language within global audiovisual culture.
Among the highlights of Asian representation in the 95th edition are the winners: Malaysian-born Michelle Yeoh, in the Best Actress category; and Vietnamese Ke Huy Quan, as best suporting actor. But also, Asian-American Stephanie Hsu and Thai Hong Chau were nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category.
For Krystal, phenomena such as Parasite, Squid Games and, more recently, Everything Everywhere All at Once represent the most apparent face of the transformations within global audiovisual culture. As they demonstrate that markets beyond the scope of the West have become capable of providing cultural models that are attractive in global terms.
Another highlight of the awards night was the Indian documentary The Elephant Whisperers directed by Kartiki Gonsalves and produced by Gueeta Monga, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Film. The Indian film RRR: Revolt, Rebellion, Revolution, directed by S.S. Rajamouli, was also awarded the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Naatu Naatu.”
The importance of Asian representation
Despite being the largest and most populated continent in the world, Asia is still conquering space in Hollywood. In total, six artists from different Asian countries received the golden statuette on the most important night in the world of cinema, an unprecedented feat in over 90 years of awards.
To Krystal, the significance of the nominations and victories is immense when we take into account the historical construction of the West as the “universal” category, “in opposition to the East as a “particular” category. Which continues to be a powerful operator of maintenance of the orientalist (and xenophobic) speech that is part of a project of westernization of the world.
The importance of Asian representativeness as a rule, rather than an exception, is in the place of recognition of a historical debt to be remedied. The challenge is to deal with the patterns of invisibility historically constructed by the Orientalist discourse, which according to Krystal, remains very present in the context of Western societies and their cultural industries.
MinJeong, who is Korean, describes how it felt to see Parasite win the 2020 Oscar “I was really proud when Parasite won. One of my friends said that he became interested in Korean culture because of this movie”. She even goes so far as to say how moved she was: “When I was watching Parasite winning the Oscar, I cried. I hope Korean movies become more famous”.
Perspectives for the future of the Asian audiovisual industry
The historical position of invisibility of many Asian artists and products in awards, such as the Oscars or the American Billboard, and the negative reaction to the representativeness, are responses to the risk of loss of the monopoly of the “universal” place by the West, in the face of the rise of competitors from other parts of the world.
“It is a fact that there are still many cultural and ideological barriers for non-Anglophone artists and audiovisual phenomena produced outside the US-Europe axis to be legitimized by the global audiovisual industry represented here by the US mainstream market. However, it is important to recognize that such representativeness is not limited and does not stop at these Western instances of legitimization, but expands beyond them,” adds Krystal Urbano.
However, the perspectives for the future are positive. The great American industry will be increasingly forced to insert and legitimize Asian works, artists, actors, and directors in its award dynamics. In order to recognize its own ethnic and racial diversity and dialogue with the diverse audiences of these productions scattered around the world.
The article above was edited by Fernanda Miki Tsukase.
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