AND THE AWARD GOES TO…
…a tumultuous road to the Oscars.
As the world anticipates the upcoming Oscar celebration of 2016 at the end of February at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, we who were born in India can totally relate to the controversy looming over this ceremony. Every time an Indian film was nominated for the Oscars it has been riled with a struggle to even get into the final rounds. This 88th awards ceremony has become the target of a potential boycott given its all white acting nominee list reflecting a clear bias in this industry in the 21st century.
Going through the list, one cannot but be aware of the all white nominations in the acting category. Several artists have decided to boycott this ceremony but I am in the camp of the few who will watch it and hope that the Master of Ceremony – Chris Rock will rock the show in every way! Maybe Mr. Rock will challenge the organizers, jury members to broaden their selection criterion and it may eventually get funding bodies to begin to support ‘other’ stories.
India has submitted films to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Films since 1957, the year this category was introduced at the Oscars. It is ironic, given that the world speaks several languages and dialects that a majority of the awards go to English films made in America. Of course, it is their award after all. Given that this award is to recognize excellence in cinematic achievements in the film industry, it narrows the playing field to a limited part of the world constantly tipping the balance in a manner in favour of the ‘American Dream’. Clustering the rest of the world in one category titled ‘Foreign Films’ is disrespectful to the many independent and established studios in other nations and continents. Maybe this category can slightly be broadened allowing Cineastes to showcase the diverse variety of subjects, issues and stories on an international platform.
I am hoping that ‘Room’ written by the Irish Canadian author Emma Donoghue will win the Best Picture nomination. However the cinematography and acting in ‘The Revenant’ might steal the show. I am pleased that the Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has been nominated for his direction of ‘The Revenant’. Over the years, I have felt ever stronger that as far as cinema is concerned, the idea of distribution and marketing of a film are as important as the making of the art itself. In this aspect, Oscar nominations play a very crucial role.
Cinema history began in Paris and spread like fire around the globe – with several individuals recognizing the magic of motion pictures and its potential. Yet, more often than not, this history is written from a European or North American point of view. Due to the economics, which becomes the defining factor for most things, most individuals have not been able to become part of this star system and its discourse.
Despite the 40 odd films that have been at the Oscars since 1957, following are some of the names of Oscar winners from India.
Bhanu Athaiya: Costume Design: 1982 for her work in the film: Gandhi directed by Richard Attenborough
Satyajit Ray: Honorary Oscar: 1992 for his contribution to Cinema.
A R Rahman and Gulzar: Best original score; 2009 for Jai Ho in the film Slum Dog Millionaire directed by Danny Boyle
A R Rahman: Original Song; 2009 for Slumdog Millionaire directed by Danny Boyle
Resul Pookuty: Sound Engineer; 2009 for Slumdog Millionaire directed by Danny Boyle
This year Court, a Marathi Film by Chaitanya Tamhane was nominated but did not make it to the final list. The film examines the Indian legal system through the trial of an ageing folk singer at a Sessions Court in Mumbai. Given the current political climate in India, this film would have created a viability and visibility on several issues pertaining to the Indian sub-continent. The idea is to keep adding to the conversation and discussion of “otherness” as best as one can all across the world.
Despite India’s vibrant film industry in the west, south and east, we are rarely able to make the short list. Mumbai itself produces more than 1000 films a year but it is to be seen what makes the cut.
Authored by Dipti Gupta
Department of Cinema and Communication
Dawson College, Montreal, Canada
The Academy Awards will take place February 28, 2016 at the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center, and broadcast live on ABC at 5:30PM PST / 8:30PM EST –February 29th in India.