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Film Students Pursue Their Passions Despite #OscarsSoWhite

The 92nd Academy Awards nominations were announced on Jan. 13, 2020. Quickly after the #OscarsSoWhite campaign would become prevalent once again, and trend online.

Actors John Cho and Issa Rae announced the predominantly white nominees via live stream on the Oscars website and social media accounts.

The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was started in 2015 by writer April Reign in order to call attention to the lack of people of colour being nominated for awards.

This year across all four acting categories, only one black woman (Cynthia Erivo) was nominated for playing a slave in the film Harriet. 

In addition to this, there were no female directors nominated for best direction, despite the commercial success of a couple of female-directed films, namely, Hustlers, directed by Lorene Scafaria and Little Women, directed by Greta Gerwig. 

Alma Hadzimustafic, a third-year film student at Ryerson University, said she felt the nominations weren’t surprising, though she felt certain artists were snubbed. “Greta Gerwig made an incredible film. I thought it was amazing. Kind of shocked that she wasn’t chosen among the other ones,” Hadzimustafic said.

Hadzimustafic thinks that a reform to the Oscar voting system could help to usher in more recognition for women and people of colour within the industry. “They should be considering giving a more diverse part of the population a chance to have a say in that, not just a group of people,” she said. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, in 2012, nearly 94 per cent of Oscar voters were white and 77 per cent were male. 

Hadzimustafic said the Academy tends to vote for movies that are popular or feature notable actors. She cites Scorsese’s The Irishman as an example. “Loved the movie but Martin Scorsese’s a very accomplished director and I feel like that definitely played into the fact that he was nominated for this,” she said. 

Despite all of the controversy surrounding these prestigious awards, Hadzimustafic is not discouraged from pursuing a career as a video editor in the industry. She keeps herself motivated by taking on projects and keeping a positive attitude. 

“I keep working on them, whether or not it’s successful,” she said. “I feel like there’s some kind of lesson learned and some kind of skill gained.”

As a film student, Hadzimustafic is also encouraged by the number of women in the industry she encounters when filling out job applications. She hopes that in the future, when she is in a position of power, she will be able to take chances on more women in the industry. Hadzimustafic suggested the industry needs to do the same when it comes to trying to diversify itself. 

“I think that just letting women into the industry and giving them a chance to show their talents and what they’ve got will just start shaping the film industry,” she said.

Taye Alvis, a third-year film student believes The Farewell was one of the biggest snubs overall.

“[The] Farewell is one of my favourite movies of the year, so that, definitely in my opinion, should’ve gotten nominated in some way,” he said. “Awkwafina was great and she won the Golden Globe for best actress so I’m surprised that she didn’t get nominated.”

Alvis said despite their controversial politics, award shows are often mistakenly considered neutral by audiences. 

“I do think they’re more political than people try to say they are,” Alvis said. “A big argument for when minorities aren’t nominated for awards is to go like, ‘Oh, well they didn’t do the best thing of the year,’ but a lot of the time, I mean, no one really knows what the best thing of the year is.”

Alvis wants to see more filmmakers of colour in the industry, especially Indigenous filmmakers like himself. 

“Part of the disappointment is seeing that there hasn’t been a lot of Indigenous-made movies that have gotten to the mainstream in a long time,” Alvis said. 

As an Indigenous filmmaker, Alvis feels some pressure to represent his community and hopes to change the image of Indigenous people in Hollywood. 

“It takes a village, but if people don’t know the difference between a village, or a tribe, or a clan then they don’t exactly know what they’re looking at or who’s talking to them,” Alvis said.

The Oscars will be held on Feb. 9, 2020 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, starting at 8:00 p.m.

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