Hollywood: the selection at the Oscars very focused on ‘handicap’

Sound of metal, Crip camp, Feeling Through … The selection for the 93rd season of the Oscars gives pride of place to handicap. But the cinema industry, where prejudices are deep, must persevere for a better representation of disabled actors.

Last minute of April 29, 2021
Sound of Metal won the award for best sound at the 93rd Academy Awards on April 25, 2021. This award was presented to Nicolas Becker live from Paris. Great efforts have been made to portray the experience of Ruben, a musician turned deaf, in an authentic way, drawing on the experiences of those affected by hearing loss and those of audiologists. builds a small microphone placed in the actor’s mouth to pick up the sound of his breathing. This film also receives a 2nd Oscar for best editing.

Initial article of April 23, 2021
By Andrew Marszal

Sound of Metal Oscar candidate with a rock drummer becoming deaf as a hero (article linked below). A documentary on a hippie camp aimed at young people with disabilities. A nomination for the first film to star a deaf and blind actor. The selection of 93è Oscars, whose ceremony will take place on April 25, marks in 2021 a decisive step towards the development of disability in Hollywood, but the film industry must persevere to maintain its representation at this level, believe professionals interviewed by the AFP.

Not a very good job

Until then, Hollywood studios “haven’t done a great job, but they know it, we’re here to tell them“, says Paul Raci, of the film Sound of Metal, nominated for the Best Supporting Actor category. The actor, whose parents are deaf and who himself suffered from hearing problems, believes that he is “one of those who must be at the forefront and not let the momentum fade“. “Remind them of all the deaf artists that we have, all the disabled artists, all the geniuses who are there“, he told AFP. The mistrust is all the more understandable as this is not the first time that the industry has tried to move forward on the subject before falling back into its old ways. In 1948, Jane Wyman, a hearing actress, won an Oscar for her role as a deaf-mute in Johnny belinda, a bad casting choice according to Mr. Raci, who compares it to “nails screeching on a slateA big step forward was taken in 1987 with the award for best actress to Marlee Matlin, who is deaf, for Children of silence.

An under-represented community

But the awards for artists with disabilities have remained rare exceptions compared to the progress made in the representation of ethnic minorities or LGBTQ on the big screen. “Very often people with disabilities bring up the rear among all these underrepresented communities.“, deplores Doug Roland, director of the short film. Feeling through, selected this year at the Oscars. He is valid himself, but his film is inspired by his meeting with a deaf and blind man who needed help to cross a New York street. For his film, Doug hired actor Robert Tarango, who became the first person both deaf and blind to star in a film. With this short film, which has received support from Marlee Matlin as executive producer, the director wants to make the voices of people with disabilities heard.

Deep prejudices

A particularly tough fight in the entertainment industry where prejudices are “very deep“While people are most of the time not even aware of having them, analyzes Doug Roland. People with disabilities are”often seen as ‘inferior’ ” and even “almost sub-human,” he says. “People are afraid of what they don’t know, or they feel threatened“, confirms Mr. Raci.”Deafness is an invisible disability, nothing in someone says ‘I’m deaf,’ ”explains the actor. Due to a lack of suitable equipment, access to filming is sometimes simply impossible for certain artists with disabilities, visually impaired or wheelchair users. Hollywood stars, including Amy Poehler and Naomie Harris, have just sent the studios an open letter urging them to urgently hire disability specialists to break down these obstacles.

The biggest minority

In an attempt to change things, actor Nic Novicki created a film award in 2013 that requires at least one member of the technical team or the cast to have a disability. “When I started we were really under-represented, much more than now“, notes Mr. Novicki. He suffers from a form of dwarfism and could no longer be offered roles whose content boiled down to his small size. Also selected at the Oscars this year, we find the documentary Crip Camp, produced by the company created by Barack and Michelle Obama (article linked below). It deals with the creation of a summer camp for disabled youth in the 1970s and the determining role that this structure played in defending the rights of people with disabilities in the United States. “This is one of the most beautiful and inclusive films I have ever seen“Says Mr. Novicki, praising the work of his wheelchair co-director James LeBrecht. People with disabilities number in the hundreds of millions around the world, which makes it”the biggest minority“, says Mr. Novicki, who considers that she must have her rightful place in the films.

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Hollywood: the selection at the Oscars very focused on ‘handicap’

Hank Gilbert