Nothing lasts forever. After three years of Mexican-directed films dominating the Oscar races, we were bound to hit a wall. As the 2017 Oscar nominations made clear, there was no Gravity, Birdman or The Revenant around to keep the streak of Latino films getting recognition from the Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts. In fact, while all eyes were on Pablo Larraín’s two anti-biopics to help shed a spotlight on fearless Latin American storytelling, neither Jackie nor Neruda made much of a dent this morning. The former received Best Actress, Best Original Score, and Best Costume Design nominations, while the Chilean submission for the Foreign Language Film Oscar had already missed out on its chance for a nomination when it didn’t make the European-heavy shortlist released earlier this month.
Breaking with its tradition of having a live announcement from Hollywood, this year’s Academy opted to deliver the nominations in a video package that included former nominees and winners shedding light on what it means to be an Oscar nominee. Actors like Terrence Howard, Brie Larson, Ken Watanabe, Glenn Close, and Jennifer Hudson welcomed this year’s nominees with plenty of advice on what to do this morning and in the days ahead. You had Guillermo del Toro, for example, telling newbie nominees that the first thing they should do is call someone who will take them down a few notches. “That’s why I woke up my wife,” he shared. He also suggested they pick comfortable shoes to wear to the ceremony. At the end Cheryl Boone Isaacs was joined by Demian Bichir to announce the Best Picture nominees which included Moonlight, La La Land, Hidden Figures and Arrival among others.
Just as we found with the Golden Globes and the Emmys, you had to really look beyond the major categories to find some Latinos getting the recognition in what is arguably the most coveted film award around. As expected, awards-magnet Lin-Manuel Miranda earned a nod for his Moana tune “How Far I’ll Go” and Rodrigo Prieto, one of the best cinematographers around, got a nomination for his work on Martin Scorsese’s Silence.
While the #OscarSoWhite controversy dominated the conversation these past two years, perhaps it’s time to talk more seriously about the dearth of Latino and Latin American projects getting singled out by the Oscars. This is precisely what Santiago Pozo, founder and CEO of Arenas Entertainment, argued in a Deadline column earlier this week titled “Oscars Are Black And White, But Not Brown.”
Speaking of the Golden Globes he asked, “Where were the actual Latino nominees in the fancy dresses and tuxedos? Surely, we can’t be waiting for Alfonso Cuarón or Alejandro González Iñárritu to direct another movie before we dare to nominate a Hispanic filmmaker.” Sure, this year’s nominees look wildly more diverse than last year (we should all be celebrating the success of I Am Not Your Negro, OJ: Made in America, Fences, and Lion, which earned Dev Patel only the third nomination for an actor of Indian descent) but there’s plenty of work until the Academy and the industry at large start taking Latino filmmakers more seriously, nurturing their projects and their talent. Unfortunately, this is an ongoing conversation that no doubt we’ll need to have year in and year out until that so promised “diversity” push can move beyond mere black and white to better reflect the ever-changing moviegoing demographic—which are black, white, and everything in between.
The Oscars will air live Sunday February 26, 2017