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Opinion: Hollywood awards shows and cultural diversity

South Korean director Bong Joon Ho at the 92nd Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 9, 2020.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Throughout the year, the world recognizes a vast array of global films at international events like the Cannes Film Festival. At these film festivals, both Hollywood and global films that have achieved exceptional standards of filmmaking are recognized with the highest honors.

However, the Hollywood award shows don’t return the same recognition for international films. Even on the rare occasion that foreign films are nominated for notable categories such as Best Picture, they often lose to their Western counterparts in the static Hollywood industry.

Currently, Western names dominate the American film industry, as white actors and film directors take up the most spots in nominations. Most Academy Award and Golden Globes Best Picture nominees are English-language movies, showing a clear English bias that represents Hollywood’s unchanging diversity. 

Even within the international category, the Academy has awarded 57 European films in comparison to the 68 winners total, furthering the prominent role of Eurocentrism in Hollywood. The Academy clearly prefers movies that look and sound Western, defeating the whole purpose of international film awards: to celebrate cultural diversity on the world stage.

Oftentimes, only one international film will make it into the category of Best Picture among many other Western films, last year being “Roma” and this year being “Parasite.”

“Roma,” a Mexican film, won several prestigious awards from the Oscars, Golden Globes, and international film festivals. However, as a movie backed by Netflix, an American streaming service, “Roma” is much more recognizable to American viewers as opposed to an independent foreign film. 

While more international films are being recognized—such as “Parasite” at this year’s Oscars—progress still must be made to ensure that popularity and viewership is not the sole factor for deciding the nominees in filmmaking excellence. All productions, no matter how small or widespread, should be given equal footing, especially work from international creators.

Arguably, the Oscars and Golden Globes are made for the American screen—but clearly diversity is no new issue within Hollywood. The “Best International Feature Film” category, however diverse it may seem, holds much less weight in comparison to titles like Best Picture, wherein English films dominate. 

On the other hand, international film festivals, such as Cannes Film Festival and Venice Film Festival, recognize global successes rather than sole Hollywood successes: “Parasite,” a South Korean production, won the Cannes Film Festival’s highest accolade, the Palme d’Or.

Among the many international nominees and winners, “Joker” is the only American film to have won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Hollywood should take inspiration and follow these global festivals as a model for a diverse and representative awards show season.

Critically-acclaimed films should be judged based on their quality and experience to the moviegoer regardless of the language and country these pictures are produced in. The introduction of international films to the main stage on American awards shows will strengthen the much-needed diversity within Hollywood while also recognizing equally impressive films that deserve the limelight. 

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