Amidst public allegations that the Oscars and other award shows lack diversity, two Mexican filmmakers have been quietly earning top ranks for the past three years. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, both Mexican, have won best director and best cinematographer for the past two and three years respectively. Not to mention that in 2014, another Mexican director, Alfonso Cuarón, won best director for his film, Gravity. In 2015, Iñárritu won for his film Birdman, this year he took home the prize for The Revenant, a film he describes as an exposition about the destructive effects of capitalism which is an issue that has affected various regions of Latin America in the hunt for natural resources. Lubezki has won three years in a row for his work on the moviesGravity, Birdman, and The Revenant.
While it may seem that Iñárritu’s rise to to the top has been sudden, he has worked on many high profile movies, starting with his debut film in Mexico in 2000, Amores Perros. He went on to direct Babel, 21 Grams, and Biutiful, all of which have won critical acclaim if not for his directorial work for the work of the actors in the films. Iñárritu’s works have drawn in big Hollywood and international actors making him an important figure in the business. Besides working behind the camera, Iñárritu also writes many of his movies with influences ranging from his background growing up in Mexico City to the works of Leo Tolstoy. While his work no longer centers in Latin America, his topics focus on issues pertinent to Latin American societies, such as socio-economic marginalization, unemployment, drug trafficking, and destruction of natural resources.
Along with the wins by Iñárritu and Lubezki, a team of Chilean filmmakers won the award for best short animated film with their movie, Bear Story. The 10 minute silent film tells a story of a bear who was separated from his wife and child and highlights a narrative that many Chileans are familiar with: the disappearance and separation of families during the Pinochet dictatorship. Packaged in a quiet, childlike presentation, this story sheds light on the social injustices of Pinochet’s regime, and other similar regimes of the 70s in Latin America.
With the emergence of the hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite, and the clear criticism of the industry by Chris Rock, the host of the award shows, it is clear that viewers are looking for more diversity in movies and tv. According to the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment, only 5.8% of actors represented on film and television identify as Hispanic/Latino, whereas the actual population of Hispanic/Latinos in the country is at 16.3%.3 The wins for Iñárritu, Cuarón, Lubeski, and Gabriel Osorio and Pato Escala from the animated short film, represent a large step forward for diversity in Hollywood, but with a lack of non-white actors to represent the various groups, the show business still has a long way to go before we can say that the Oscars are not so white.
Romney, Jonathan. "Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'When You See The Revenant You Will Say "Wow"'" The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 03 Jan. 2016. Web. 02 Mar. 2016. Available at:http://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/jan/03/alejandro-gonzalez-inarritu-interview-the-revenant
Lodge, Guy. "Film Review: ‘2016 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animation’."Variety. N.p., 26 Feb. 2016. Web. 02 Mar. 2016. Available at:http://variety.com/2016/film/reviews/oscar-nominated-short-films-animation-review-1201715939/
Pulver, Andrew. "In a Year of #OscarsSoWhite, a Mexican Film-maker Quietly Dominates the Academy Awards." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 26 Feb. 2016. Web. 02 Mar. 2016. Available at:http://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/feb/26/latino-film-maker-alejandro-gonzalez-inarritu-ethnic-diversity-hollywood
"'Bear Story' from Chile Wins Oscar for Animated Short at Academy Awards." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 28 Feb. 2016. Web. 02 Mar. 2016. Available at: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-animated-short-20160229-story.html
Bishop, Brian. "Emmanuel Lubezki Wins Best Cinematography Oscar for The Revenant." The Verge. N.p., 28 Feb. 2016. Web. 02 Mar. 2016. Available at:http://www.theverge.com/2016/2/28/11128254/emmanuel-lubezki-wins-best-cinematography-the-revenant-academy-awards-2016