CODA takes home three Oscars
by Ishini Fernando
CODA, the 2021 Apple TV+ movie directed by Sian Heder, took Hollywood by storm at the 2022 Academy Awards with three wins. Not only did the film win best picture, becoming the first win of its kind for a streaming service, but its writer-director, Heder, won best adapted screenplay. Making the night even more spectacular, Troy Kotsur walked away with a best supporting actor award and became the second deaf performer to win an Oscar, following his co-star Marlee Matlin’s win 35 years ago.
CODA is a coming-of-age movie about 17-year-old Ruby (Emilia Jones), who struggles with the responsibilities to her family while trying to pursue her dream of becoming a singer. It is an English language remake of 2014 French film La Famille Bélier.
Ruby is a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) and the only hearing member of her family. Throughout the film, she is often seen interpreting sign language for her parents, helping out with the family’s fishing business and struggling as a high school student. Her father Frank (Troy Kotsur) and mother Jackie (Marlee Matlin) highly depend on her, becoming a heavy burden to bear when Ruby discovers her desire to attend a distinguished music school far away from the family home. On the flipside, her older brother Leo (Daniel Durant) is of the opinion that Ruby prevents the family from being independent because their parents have learned to rely on her too much.
The family drama is filled with hilarious and heart-warming moments that are sure to bring out reactions from even the most poker-faced viewers. While beautifully filmed, it is the cast’s stellar performance that brings out the very best of an otherwise familiar storyline of a small-town girl trying to pursue her dreams, and makes CODA truly shine.
Along with its success, the film has provoked debate about whether it did the deaf community a disservice by showcasing deaf people from a hearing perspective. As much of the movie highlighted Frank and Jackie’s dependency on their daughter, many felt the film missed its chance to break stereotypes surrounding disability and better represent the deaf community. Nonetheless, its Oscar wins remain a breakthrough moment for deaf performers and audiences.