The 93rd Oscars: a win for ‘Nomadland’ and AAPI representation


Sophie Yang, Staff Writer

In light of the recent hate perpetuated against the AAPI community, it is extremely important to recognize the achievements and history being made to uplift the joy within the AAPI community. On March 15, 2021, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Nick Jonas took to the screen to announce the nominations for the 93rd Oscars, and last night served as a win for the AAPI film community.

“I feel that it’s so important to talk about the accomplishments and good things happening within the Asian community, because just focusing on the negative makes it feel like that’s all we are, and we’re so much more than that,” freshman Joan Camaya says.

Heading into this year, with only seven films starring a predominantly Asian cast holding past nominations for Best Picture, Parasite remained the only Asian film to have received the Academy Award for Best Picture. This year’s nomination of Minari and Nomadland broke the record of having two Asian-directed movies nominated for the award in the same year, and last night, Nomadland became the second Asian film to win Best Picture. 

Multi-talented Chloé Zhao continues to make history after becoming the first woman of color to win Best Director of a Motion Picture at the Golden Globe awards earlier this year. Zhao and her film Nomadland ultimately took home three Oscars—Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress—as the impactful film focuses on the journey of a woman living in a van and searching for work and meaning within life after the death of her husband. Nomadland’s theme spoke to many audiences and is the result of Zhao’s powerful plethora of skills, being the writer, editor, producer and director of the film. 

In addition to Zhao’s triumphs, Youn Yuh-Jung won Best Supporting Actress for her part in Minari, becoming the first Korean actress to win an Oscar.

“In our country, it’s already hard enough for a white woman to be in a position of power, but the fact that [Zhao] is an Asian woman and being recognized for her efforts is so special and barrier-breaking,” Bonn says.

“Watching award shows in the past, I’ve never seen a reflection of myself on the stage. It’s really cool to now see those people up there getting the representation we deserve,” junior Amaya Bonn says.

Minari star Steven Yeun, known from the popular series The Walking Dead, plays the part of an ambitious father and husband working through financial struggle after moving to Arkansas in search of fulfilling the American dream for his family. Yeun was nominated for Best Actor, becoming the first Asian-American to ever be nominated for that distinguished award. Riz Ahmed, starring in the film Sound of Metal, was also up for that award, adding to the list of actors of Asian descent to receive this recognition. Ultimately, Anthony Hopkins took home the Best Actor award over both Yeun and Ahmed for his role in The Father.

“Representation is really important to me, especially in western films, because when Asians are seen in movies, it’s very much caricatures, stereotypes, and side characters, but never the main character. It’s really ground-breaking and exciting to see that so many Asian people are nominated, because they are paving the way for others,” Camaya says.

Historically, the Academy Awards have been criticized for lacking BIPOC representation, leading to recent efforts for more representation and inclusion as part of the Academy’s plan titled the “Academy Aperture 2025 initiative.” The plan details that for films to be considered in the running for Best Film, perhaps one of the most prestigious awards.  

“It’s 2021; people of color should already be included. I feel sad knowing they have to make these rules to fulfill a number, but I am happy to hear they are making an effort and progress,” Camaya says. 

The numerous strides being made in Asian representation pertaining to the nominations listed brings hope and light to AAPI identifying students. 

“There still is a lot more that needs to be done in having diversity in this industry, but, right now, it’s exciting to see more representation,” Bonn says.