01 Mar 2023
Oscars 2023: Film As a Powerful Learning Tool
The Diversifying Group team explore this concept with Oscar 2023 nominees
Film can give us a language for experiences that we maybe don’t quite understand or can’t give words to yet. With the Oscars approaching, we’ve realised that so many nominated films this year are built around themes of Diversity, Inclusion, Equality and Belonging. Films are powerful vessels of information. Unlike textual resources, which can be dense, inaccessible, and dry, films show us rather than tell us. We follow protagonists who are often completely different to us, with life experiences we have never been exposed to, yet the power of good cinema puts us in their shoes, fostering an empathy and kindness where before might have been ignorance or misunderstanding.
The 2023 Oscar nominees represent this completely. Our team at Diversifying Group touch on just a few that resonated with them.
“It took a film from Hollywood to give language to something no one was giving language to.” – Pedro Pascal
Cressida, Head of Content, on Women Talking
They didn’t have the language to speak about the abuse they were suffering. The words of explanation they were given were ‘ghosts, demons or the wild female imagination.’ The film opens when they begin to find a language of their own and hence the title rings true, the women talk. Yet what follows is so much more. The majority of the film takes place in the same hay barn, with the same small group of women talking over their options which are as follows: stay and do nothing, stay and fight, or leave. If that sounds boring to you, I promise it is anything but.
These are women who have had no access to a world outside their strict religious colony, no education, no worldly knowledge. Through their prolonged dialogue, through screams, laughter, philosophy and theology, we gain insight into each woman’s position and the horrors that she has endured that occur off-screen. The film speaks to feminism, obviously, but also the nuances of domestic abuse, victim-blaming, gaslighting, and the power of female community and friendship. It is masterful filmmaking, conjuring powerful emotions with such a light touch. Women Talking deeply affected me, staying with me long after the credits rolled, and the sniffling audience sidled quietly out the screen. I’d urge everyone to see it.
Eddie, Customer Success Consultant, on Tár
Tár tackles issues surrounding misogyny, mental health, and power. Lydia Tar (Cate Blanchette) is an EGOT winner and world-renowned conductor. Her gender represents a long-awaited acknowledgement into the traditional genre of classical music. However, her career is severely damaged after she receives a myriad of accusations of grooming and bullying. These accusations circulate and her job, marriage and psyche suffer as a result.
The narrative sheds a light on how fragile reputation can be not to mention how quickly it can be affected in a digital age. From a social standpoint, its message is that no one is immune from accountability regardless of the novelty that their position may symbolise. Tar has indeed broken a glass ceiling, but doing so does not mean that she has instantly become an advocate for normalising similar achievements. Instead, she ossifies herself and becomes hostile towards those who aspire towards similar goals, resulting with - at times – fatal consequences.
Naomi, Senior Digital Marketing Consultant, on Everything Everywhere All at Once
To be British Chinese in a post-Covid world means to be living amongst a multiverse of identities. You are both British and Chinese and yet neither, straddling an unknown world that lies in-between. This is further complicated by the painful wave of hate crimes myself and many others were victims of, with a staggering increase of 80% reported hate crimes towards Asians in London alone in 2020.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is a breath of fresh air amongst the gloomy pessimism that it is to be Asian in today’s western society. This is the call that brings a much-needed positive representation of what it means to be Asian and part of an immigrant family in the west. Whilst a uniquely American take, the themes of the intergenerational trauma and isolation could be paralleled anywhere.
The story depicts a working immigrant mother, and her struggle to understand her daughter and husband, against the backdrop of their failing laundromat business. The movie draws from a long history of Asian Americans, including the laundromat which leans on the history of exclusionary labour laws that prevented Chinese people from working in the US. This, coupled with the critique of the “model minority” trope and the figure of the tiger mother, is combatted with a depiction of Chinese people as powerful, glamorous, resilient yet capable of depths of empathy and insightfulness.
This simple family drama magnifies and individualises the stereotyped depictions that have plagued Chinese people for centuries. Along with a raw look into homophobia in Chinese communities and the generational divide, it provides a much-needed complexity to the 2D roster of so many Asian characters. The choice to include so much dialogue in Mandarin and Cantonese solidifies the ‘Chineseness’ of the movie and allows for normalisation of the languages in a world where speaking any language other than English is depicted as a form of stupidity. I hope we see many more pieces like this that celebrate and centre the ‘humanness’ of what it means to be Chinese in the West today.
Yani, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant, on Aftersun
Aftersun follows Sophie as she remembers her last holiday with her father, Calum, at a beach resort in Turkey, much like many British holidaymakers venture to. The film sees the world through 11-year-old Sophie’s eyes as she makes memories with her father. Through younger Sophie, we see the love and joy of her Father, but with an older Sophie, we look deeper to see the struggles Calum is battling.
Film gives us a language for experiences that we don’t have a language for. Aftersun is exactly this for mental health. Much of the experience of having parents with depression cannot be fully expressed or understood until later in life. The film delicately portrays depression realistically, with the highs and lows and the masking of emotional pain, as well as a masterful depiction of depression’s impact on families and children.
Faustine, Head of Recruitment Marketing & Employer Brand, on Turning Red
Turning Red is a wonderful depiction of the awkwardness and turmoil of adolescence, puberty and female friendships. Despite the difference in cultures between the film’s characters and my own experience growing up, it resonated with me as a funny, honest portrayal of the inner lives of 13-year-old girls and the struggle to meet the expectations placed on us by (often well-meaning) mothers.
As I watched Mei experience intense crushes, swoon over boy bands and all but die of humiliation while her mother shakes a box of oversized pads at her, I realised how few movies I watched as a child represented this side of growing up. Turning Red is a unique film that addresses topics we’ve been taught to believe are taboo or embarrassing yet are a reality for teenage girls almost everywhere. It’s truly a breath of fresh air in coming-of-age stories. Plus, have you ever heard a better song than Nobody Like U? 4*Town forever.
Ben, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant, on Wakanda Forever
The first Black Panther was refreshing in so many ways; cleverly inverting the discourse of African underdevelopment through its Afro-Futurism outlook; whilst also brilliantly capturing the tension (for me at least) between what it means to be “African” vs what it means to be “African-other”, through the conflicting characters of T’challa and Killmonger.
Sequels are rarely as good as their predecessor and Wakanda Forever had a tough act to follow, even without the untimely loss of the super talented Chadwick Boseman.
Danai Gurira (Okoye) and Lupita N’yongo (Nakia) steal the few scenes in which they feature, and Tenoch Huerta Mejia is a revelation as Namor, the King of Talokan; an ancient Mayan-like civilisation that moved into the seas after the Conquistadors invaded their lands. It is perhaps no coincidence that all three actors have a connection to the heritage of their character which adds authenticity to both their performance and accents (Gurira is of Zimbabwean heritage, N’yongo Kenyan, and Mejia of indigenous Mexican heritage).
There is understandable sadness throughout the film; perhaps best portrayed by Angela Bassett’s performance as T’Challa’s grieving mother, Ramonda, daughter of Lumumba (I particularly appreciated this homage to Patrice Lumumba; The DRC’s first Prime Minister, post-independence, who was executed with the involvement of the US and Belgium in 1961). It was also good to see the wonderful Michael B Jordan briefly reprise his role as Killmonger, which carried much of the heart of the first film. The soundtrack featured awesome musicians such as Baaba Maal, a Senegalese singer and guitarist (I hope this will introduce him to a wider global audience). Overall however, the film felt too heavy and slightly directionless; understandable perhaps considering the lack of the central frames of reference that the first one had in Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordon’s performances. I will however keep an eye on director and cast and am curious to see how they take the story forward in subsequent films.