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The Ugly Truth: Why Talent Is Not Enough To Get Selected In Academy Awards

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People are excitedly waiting for the announcement of the official nomination list of the 93rd Academy Awards. This particular prestigious award show, popularly known as ‘Oscars’, has a lot of darkness behind its dazzling Kodak theatre. India has been its regular participant since the section ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ (Best International Feature) was announced.

But the thing is this award is more inclined towards the native films of the USA. But factually, the Oscar is not the national award of America. Hundreds of countries around the world submit their feature films in the International Feature segment every year. Very few of them get the final nomination and the winners are even less. The entire limelight is stolen by Hollywood. The backstage drama, what we call the selection procedure, can easily beat any of the scripts that have been ever awarded in this programme.

There are certain factors where the selection stands and we can clearly understand the inequality. There are some chosen formulas that determine the running of this ‘American Show’. Like movies on issues of racism, feminism and slavery, and sometimes in the ‘Foreign Language’ section, international politics and so-called diplomatic matters with the USA, become the landmark of a selection. Anyone can easily call it an American Award Show, where 90% of the films are US-based films, while only 10% are talked about under the international section.

Courtesy: Getty Images

Still, there is a craze for this Award. Now, we can analyse it, why? There are two major factors — publicity and recognition. There are several film festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, Venice, Busan etc. that offer a better platform for films. If we analyse the Indian film data at the Oscar, then the ridiculous selection list will come on screen.

The first film Mother India was submitted in 1957 and was nominated in the final list of the 30th Academy Awards by the US Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science. After that, many films were submitted but none of them got nominated. A few films, however, are extremely well-crafted that deserved this award. The next film that got nominated was Salaam Bombay in 1988 and Lagaan in 2001. After that, no films have featured in the ‘Nominated List’ where a few bad films were selected as well (not my personal view, these are critics’ words) by Film Federation of India (FFI).

The best part is understanding the procedure of selection. In the Foreign Language section, each country’s designated committee has the authority to send the official nomination for their country. But the game gets a little nasty after that. It goes to the voting round where journalists and film buffs are secretly giving their votes for the films where these kinds of voting rounds are full of doubt.

Big studios in the US throw parties for those ‘Selective Game Changers’ to manipulate votes in their favour. Sometimes, even the known lobby of a studio gets an extra advantage in this voting round. The same rules are applied to foreign films as well, where the game changers are the journalists of a few well-known news daily.

There is another voting or selection round after that, where the final nomination list is made, but this is not an exception like the previous one. In the Indian perspective, selective agents or big studios have a tie-up with publicists in Los Angeles (Hollywood) where they go for a month-long campaign for their films. More limelight or media coverage means more chances of getting nominated.

Is There A Way Out For Independent Filmmakers In India?

The FFI has a high submission fee (about Rs 1 lakh) for each film for the initial selection as India’s official entry. They are telling a lie which is actually sealed the words written above, such as the nomination procedure needs too much bucks and if you can’t submit your movie with this nominal fee, then you think you might be rejected even before evaluation.

There is another way to be nominated for this award. Some film festivals are accredited by the Academy of Motion Pictures, where the winner film gets selected for the final round of voting, which is fine, as most films are from Europe and America.

Now, you can easily think that the world’s greatest film award is seriously the greatest in nature, where talent or film content are not the only  factors, money is important as well. Take your popcorn and enjoy this show cause the show must go on.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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