As the film “CODA” won many Oscars, the audience erupted in a wave of loud clapping—and silent, yet ecstatic sign language ovation. Best Adapted Screenplay (Sian Heder), Best Supporting Actor (Troy Kotsur), and Best Picture were among the categories.
“CODA” was, for all intents and purposes, a lovely and straightforward family drama. This isn’t Oscar bait.
It’s a narrative about children of deaf adults, hence the title, and it follows a hearing adolescent with a passion for music who works at a fishing harbor with her deaf parents and brother. “CODA” featured no “big names” than former Oscar winner Marlee Matlin (who won in 1987 for her part in “Children of a Lesser God”). It was likewise made on a shoestring budget of $10 million and released on a streaming service.
Nonetheless, it swept. These kinds of historic achievements reflect what the Oscars are all about at their best: a celebration of art that truly moves us. And the deaf community deservedly took home the night’s biggest victory.
Troy Kotsur became the first deaf male actor to win an Oscar, following in the footsteps of his co-star Marlee Matlin.
Kotsur acknowledged all of the “great deaf theater stages where [he] was allowed and given the opportunity to practice [his] craft as an actor” during his victory speech. He also told a heartwarming narrative of his “hero” father, who rose to become the best signer in his family until he was paralyzed from the neck down in a vehicle accident.
ASL is praised by Sian Heder as a “beautiful cinematic language.”
Heder described the experience as “really life-changing as an artist and a human being” as she won her Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, thanking the deaf community for being her colleagues and teachers.
“So frequently disability is portrayed in such a precious, earnest way,” Heder said in a recent interview with Movie Maker, “where characters who are deaf or have a disability are portrayed as either tremendously wonderful, or objects of pity.” In fact, the only difference between a deaf person and a hearing person is that a deaf person cannot hear.” As a result, the final purpose was to portray a true and honest portrayal of deaf families. Embarrassment abounds.
“CODA” winning best picture shows that recognition can be healing.
“CODA” does more than only shed light on deaf culture. It applauds it. And its success will almost certainly pave the way for further films that give the disabled population more visibility. Consider the impact of “Parasite’s” Best Picture triumph. Korean cinema exploded after that, especially on streaming services (looking at you, “Squid Game”). We’ve already seen hints of this trend with the inclusion of deaf characters in mainstream films like Marvel’s “Eternals” and the deaf-led film “Sound of Metal.” But huge international appreciation takes it a step farther.
The Oscars may have been a tornado of less-than-classy news this year, but that doesn’t change the fact that “CODAawards “‘s are a constructive force for good. May everyone from all walks of life have their moment in the spotlight.