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Chasing a Dream

She felt like she was in a place surrounded by lies. She wanted to escape, but she couldn’t. Everyone around her fed her with lies, and she was left desperate. She rebelled. She lost herself in manga. In fanfiction. In trying to create them.

Her wings were clipped. The only place she could fly freely in was her mind. Every day, she struggled to break free. The wings started to shiver.

Then it started to move. And finally, she flew.

She flew and flew from Beijing to the grandest stage of them all in Los Angeles: The Academy Awards.

The small girl who used to daydream, writing fanfiction, and drawing manga was no longer there. In her place, a mature and wholesome director stood who was just crowned the best director at the Academy Awards becoming only the second woman to be able to cusp the little golden man in her hands.

And the first female director of color to win the award.

Chloe Zhao then dedicated her Oscars win to “anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves and to hold onto the goodness in each other, no matter how difficult it is to do that.”

When I heard those words, I was quite sure this was the start of something beautiful. All across the world, women were always marginalized when it comes to creativity and film-making as a whole. Little girls who dreamt of a different world, were often discouraged.

I can very easily imagine thousands of girls, white or colored, American or not, beginning to dream again after seeing Zhao’s wins at the Oscars 2021.

And the variety that the 93rd Academy awards had did not just stop there.

Diversity and inclusion were no longer mere words anymore.

At Sunday’s 93rd annual Academy Awards, Chloé Zhao became the first woman of color to win the best director, for “Nomadland” (which also won the best picture). Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) and Yuh-Jung Youn (“Minari”) clinched the races for supporting actors. Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson became the first Black women to win in makeup and hairstyling, for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

Every speech presented there invoked the deepest of all emotions in me: one of awe and wonder. It just made me feel so inherently good and happy. It felt like hard work was finally going to be recognized, no matter where you came from or who you liked, or how you looked.

And I can only imagine the entire world thinking along those lines as well. People who were marginalized for their uniqueness, have finally seen light at the end of their path. And now, they have all started chasing the light and are trying to escape from this darkness.

This change was a long time coming. This change has been in the making for decades. This change has broken down barriers now.

“Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” Said Bong Joon Ho, better known as the director of the film “Parasite”.

A story of Greed and class discrimination threatening the symbiotic relationship between a wealthy family and a destitute clan, set in the backdrop of South Korea would hardly have been anyone’s favorite for a clean sweep of all the major awards. But that is precisely what happened.

“The personal is the most creative.” Said Martin Scorsese.

And because the audience is slowly knocking over the doors of selectivity and oppression, a flood of good cinemas is finally going to quench our thirst for good films.

With these Oscar wins more and more oppressed people with various stories will dream again of recognition. More and more personal stories previously ostracized will find the voice to come out. They will finally start dreaming about being accepted.

“And so to anyone watching this, who sees themselves in us, let this be a symbol, a reflection that leads you to love yourself because doing so may be the difference between dreaming at all and somehow, through the Academy’s grace, realizing dreams you never allowed yourself to have” This was what Barry Jenkins had to say after his film Moonlight won the Best Picture.

It told the story of a black man, and the director himself accepted the fact that he was beyond surprised that it reached so many places. And his movie with predominantly black people winning the best picture in addition to so many other awards has gotten an entire society dreaming again. Like their voice matters. Like their stories matter. Like they matter. That their dreams matter.

It doesn’t matter anymore what language the movie is, people and the judging committee are learning to overcome the one-inch barrier of subtitles. It doesn’t matter anymore what race the movie focuses on, people and the judging committee are learning to overcome the urge to focus on the color of the skin.

What matters now is the soul of the movie. The content of your character. The magic of your art.

According to UCLA’s bi-annual Hollywood Diversity Report, which for 2021 is subtitled “Pandemic In Progress,” Hollywood made enormous strides last year with regard to inclusion for women and people of color both in front of, and behind, the camera.

The report usually covers only theatrical releases, but (like the Academy Awards) this year it also includes streaming to account for the way audiences saw movies in 2020.

Among its findings: women and people of color gained ground in each job category it tracks (lead actors, total cast, writers, and directors).

In the top 185 films released, the report finds that people of color made up 39.7% of leading roles, a marked improvement from 2014 when UCLA launched the study when people of color represented just 10.5%. Women had 47.8% of film leads, as opposed to 25.6% in 2011.

The world has started dreaming now. The world has started running behind those dreams. And hopefully, we get to listen to a whole lot more inspirational stories to guide us out of the darkness as well.

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