Making, Hearing, Listening To History
  • Friday, Mar. 4, 2022
Troy Kotsur (l) and Marlee Matlin in a scene from "CODA" (photo courtesy of Apple TV+)

This week’s installment of SHOOT’s The Road To Oscar Series connects with three directors who had a major hand in historic firsts. Belfast (Focus Features) writer-producer-director Kenneth Branagh individually scored three of the film’s seven Oscar nominations--Best Director, Best Picture and Original Screenplay. The latter two made Branagh the first to receive Academy Award nods across seven categories in his career. He had previously been nominated in the Director, Lead Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay and Live-Action Short categories. 

Meanwhile director Ryusuke Hamaguchi saw his Drive My Car (Janus Films and Sideshow) break new ground. Drive My Car became the first Japanese film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Drive My Car received a total of four nods---the others being for Best International Film, Director and Adapted Screenplay (Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe).

And writer-director Siân Heder’s CODA (Apple Original Films) scored three Oscar nominations--Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay (for Heder) and Best Supporting Actor (Troy Kotsur). Two of the nods made history. CODA became the first film with a predominantly deaf cast to be honored with a Best Picture Oscar nomination. And Kotsur became the first deaf male actor to ever be nominated for an Academy Award.

The film stars Emilia Jones as Ruby who is a CODA, the abbreviation for child of deaf adult. She is the only hearing person in her deaf family which finds its fishing business in jeopardy. Ruby becomes torn between pursuing her love of music and her fear of abandoning her parents (portrayed by Kotsur and Marlee Matlin). Matlin of course is the first deaf actor to win an Oscar, for Best Supporting Actress in 1987 for Children of a Lesser God. Also in the CODA cast is Daniel Durant, a deaf actor who portrays Ruby’s brother.

It’s been 35 years since Matlin won the Oscar with barely any representation of deaf actors during that span. On Oscar nominations announcement day, Kotsur recalled, “I can still remember watching Marlee win her Oscar on television and telling friends I was going to get nominated one day and them being skeptical.”

CODA underscores the need for diversity in Hollywood, showcasing the artistry of deaf performers. The hope is that the film’s success will translate into more opportunities for deaf talent. 

Robert Goldrich is an editor for SHOOTonline

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