My other day job is as an educator; specifically an international school educator of the arts and English (literature and writing). I've launched film festivals, produced a bilingual production of The Vagina Monologues, exhibited artwork and co-chaired arts and culture boards missioned to present, create and share meaningful works of art within select communities and globally. The arts have power and influence and an intuitive urge to be relevant. It's through this relevance, this connection with viewers, readers and listeners that the message, the word, sound and image transcends time, space and eases into a universality that is timeless. This year's Oscars remind me of that power and influence and the responsibility we have as audience to see, hear and speak that which is true. Even if brutally so.
I have to be honest. Well more honest. I have not watched the Oscars in a very very long time. Partly because I've been living abroad and partly because I have not been able (or wanting) to see many of the films nominated in the past. Before you start to think I'm poo-poohing the Oscars (not that I'd be alone), or I'm some arts snob, I simply wonder if the criteria on which I judge great works of cinematic art is compatible with that of the academy and sometimes society at large. Which is why I mentioned "relevance" and "universality" and "connection". Does art depict life or vise versa? What do we do after we see ourselves mirrored back on the big screen? Which stories do we claim as our own and beg to be told again and again because we know we are not alone?
I've thought about the timeliness of many of the nominated films. Hidden Figures, Fences, Loving,13th, Moonlight and even Jackie speak of the backstory, the fine print of space travel, interracial love, modernizing slavery, and walking bravely into one's future as one's past remains above ground. The power and influence leaves a lump in my throat and a pain in my chest and as excruciating as the sight and sounds are, I'm hoping the dialogue continues after the acceptance speech, the parties and the curtain goes down.