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Sex and Silence: What This Awards Season Tells Us About Hollywood

Sex and Silence: What This Awards Season Tells Us About Hollywood


Those involved with the Indie Spirits seemed unsure how to respond to the protest chant, which continued until the end of the show and could be heard from the stage and during the YouTube livestream of the ceremony . Jim Gaffigan, a presenter, was shaken when the disturbance began, losing his train of thought; later, comedian Jimmy O. Yang compared it to a ruckus. Most of the presenters and winners completely ignored the protest, even though the chant emphasized their every word.

Outside, a shuttle was dispatched to drive past the protesters in a feeble effort to block out the noise. When I went to investigate, a crowd of independent film insiders had also gathered, watching the protesters as they marched on the other side of the event's barricades. The irony, one spectator said, is that most of the people in that tent agree with them.

If it's true that a ceasefire is desired by Hollywood's typical creative class, you wouldn't know it from listening to their speeches this awards season. After two years in which the war in Ukraine was recognized in almost every award ceremony, the conflict between Israel and Hamas remained silent in most ceremonies. It's too heavy, a studio executive told me after the Independent Spirit Awards event. People worry about their careers.

Cognitive dissonance is always required when global atrocities occur during a prestigious awards season. There's even a best picture nominee about this kind of selective thinking: The Zone of Interest, in which a well-off Nazi couple exults in their good fortune while living next to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Accepting one of three BAFTA awards for the film earlier this month in London, producer James Wilson acknowledged these blinders, becoming one of the few artists this season to speak directly to the current situation.

A friend wrote to me after seeing the movie the other day that he couldn't help but think about the walls we build in our lives that we choose not to look behind, Wilson said in his speech. These walls are not new, dating from before, during or since the Holocaust, and it seems obvious at this time that we should care about the innocent people killed in Gaza or Yemen in the same way that we think about the innocent people killed in Mariupol or in Israel. Thank you for recognizing a film that asks us to think in these spaces.

Although some may think that an awards ceremony is no place for political discourse, a great film is capable of nothing less than changing the way we see the world; because of this, the act of making a film can only be political. I'm sure executives at ABC, the network that broadcasts the Oscars, would prefer that attendees remain silent on these issues, fearing public backlash or opt-out. But if The Zone of Interest wins the international film Oscar next month, as most pundits think it will, I wonder what the hell we're going to hear.




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