Few films have broken more ground in Hollywood than CODA has.
Nothing about CODA winning Best Picture at the 94th Oscars is common. This is a movie that tells the coming-of-age story of children of deaf adults (CODA). Emilia Jones is in the lead role and she plays the daughter of deaf parents. She is the only one in the family that can hear and therefore her family depends on her quite a bit. Alongside winning Best Picture, the movie also won Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor for Troy Kotsur. On a night in which a certain slapping incident took everyone’s attention and was the main point of discourse, we really should focus on CODA more. This is the biggest award of the night and a movie about a deaf family winning it is no small feat.
Watch the trailer for CODA here:
Child of Deaf Adults
Writer and director Sian Heder have focused the story on Ruby Rossi, the only hearing member of her family. Her parents and brother are all deaf, and they live by the means of their fishing business. The film also explores the way Ruby struggles to get accepted into social situations in school because of her family situation. This is not far from the reality that so many families face. Very few films have ever focused on deaf people and even when they previously have it wasn’t always a portrayal to be proud of. The general audiences are not necessarily too aware of what a CODA even is and so if nothing else this movie can serve as a gateway for someone to further research into it and educate themselves. This is ultimately a good way for people to learn more about a community that rarely gets spoken about.
Director Sian Heder
Sian Heder knew she wanted to do her best to showcase the daily lives of the family and especially of the daughter. This is undeniably an interesting watch and even more so an emotional one. Heder said she wanted to reinvent the story a little bit despite it being an adaptation of the Belgian film titled ‘La Familie Belier’. She did extensive research on every aspect of the movie. She observed a fish processing plant to prepare for the scenes in which the family deals with the fishing business. Moreover, she consulted local fishermen and perhaps more importantly she also collaborated with two ASL (American Sign Language) masters Alexandria Wailes and Anne Tomasetti.
The Cast of CODA
When casting for the role, it was important to director Heder to get deaf actors to play the deaf roles. Whether through auditions or through theatre connections, she found the right actors to play the roles. The way every actor portrays the daily outings of a deaf person in this certain situation is perhaps the biggest achievement of the movie. It’s not about making it seem polished or classy but more so about just showing what an everyday deaf family goes through in a specific town. There’s definitely still a lot of pushback by Hollywood studios in telling deaf stories or even casting deaf actors to play such roles and hopefully, CODA has moved the needle a little. It’s essential to celebrate such a huge win for a movie that’s over 40% in sign language with incredible actors in it.
Reception and Accolades
The movie has been universally loved by almost everyone. Critics especially have been raving about it ever since it came out. It was also refreshing to see a story with deaf characters that are just living their lives and are not helpless or in constant need of something from someone else.
Troy Kotsur became the first deaf actor ever to win the Oscar for Best Actor. His speech at the awards was incredible and very touching. The film was nominated for a variety of other awards pretty much at every single film ceremony during 2021 and 2022 also.
CODA is currently streaming through Apple TV where it was also first released alongside theatres. One thing’s for sure though, not a lot of films have this kind of story and make this much noise. Go watch it if you want to watch the best movie of 2021 according to the Oscars and see for yourself if they got it right.
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