5 Films Nominated for 2021 Oscars That Highlight the Reality of Global Crises
These works may be hard to watch, but they reveal long-standing injustices that must be exposed.
This year’s Academy Awards ceremony will feature nominations shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a global push for viewers to learn about injustices committed throughout history and take action against global crises that harm the most vulnerable among us.
As movie theaters around the world were closed for a majority of 2020, this year’s Oscar nominations include a record number of films produced by and released on streaming platforms, according to the New York Times. They also highlight a growing number of traditionally underrepresented voices, following years of backlash about the lack of diversity found in nominated films. In response, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released a new set of diversity requirements last year, set to take effect in 2024.
This year, two women — Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) and Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) — were nominated in the Best Director category in the same year for the first time in history, according to the AP. Zhao is also making history as the first woman of color nominated for best director and is the most nominated woman in a single year in Oscar history.
In the Best Actor category, two men of Asian heritage — Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) and Steven Yeun (Minari) — are nominated for the first time in the same year, according to the New York Times.
Many of this year’s nominated documentaries and films highlight the struggles faced by people around the world. Though at times troubling, these works have the potential to spur people to take action against injustice, such as through learning more about humanitarian crises or taking a stance against the prison system in the US.
To learn how to be better allies, here are five Oscar nominations that can introduce Global Citizens to the reality of inequities taking place around the world throughout history.
1. Hunger Ward
Category: Best Documentary Short
By following two health care workers who work in Yemen’s therapeutic feeding centers, Hunger Ward exposes the tragic and long-lasting effects of the ongoing Yemeni Civil War. Director Skye Fitzgerald reveals how hunger is political for the millions of children in Yemen facing starvation as a result of the multi-year conflict and makes clear that people need to pay attention, particularly Americans.
“As Americans, we ought to care about it, because our tax dollars are funding it. We’re funding operational support of Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign,” Fitzgerald told Deadline. “We’re selling arms through American companies for the missiles that are killing civilians in Yemen right now.”
Where to watch:Hunger Ward is currently streaming on the Pluto TV Documentaries Channel in 20+ countries.
Category: Best Documentary Feature
Directed by Garrett Bradley, Time highlights the flaws of the criminal justice system in the US through the eyes of Sibil Fox Richardson (also known as Fox Rich), a woman whose husband was sentenced to 60 years in prison for bank robbery. In 1997, Fox and her husband Robert Richardson were convicted for their roles in a bank robbery in Louisiana. When Robert’s lawyer advised him not to take a plea deal, he got 60 years in prison.
Fox was released early in 2002 and used her freedom to campaign on her husband’s behalf. The documentary uses original footage and home videos to document Fox’s campaign to free her husband from jail and get the US to acknowledge the biases that cause Black people to be disproportionately imprisoned.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
3. Do Not Split
Our movie about the protests in Hong Kong and the aftermath – Do Not Split 不割席 – is nominated for Oscars for best short documentary. Hopefully it can contribute to create attention around how basic human rights are suppressed by Beijing @CharlotteCook@fieldofvisionpic.twitter.com/puIEBKdB6E— Anders Hammer (@andershammer) March 15, 2021
Category: Best Documentary Short
Told through a series of shots from the 2019 Hong Kong protests, Do Not Split is a documentary short that gives an in-depth look at the demonstrations and the protesters who risked their lives in the name of democracy.
At only 30 minutes long, the short provides a full view of how the protesters clashed with militarized police after the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation Bill, which would allow the Chinese government to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China. Protesters feared that passage of the law would allow for the arrest of people who criticized the Chinese government.
Where to watch: Do Not Split is available for streaming on the documentary website Field of Vision.
4. Quo Vadis, Aida?
Category: Best International Feature
Quo Vadis, Aida? is a war drama that takes place during the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre, a genocide that targeted Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, perpetuated by the Bosnian Serb Army during the Bosnian War.
The film follows Aida Selmanagic, a UN translator who tries to save her family as they navigate life inside a UN camp. It tells the grim story of genocidal violence and reveals the failure of the United Nations to protect civilians during the war as the Bosnian Serb Army carried out mass killings.
Where to watch:Quo Vadis, Aida? is currently availble in the UK, where residents can rent the film on the Curzon Home Cinema website.
5. If Anything Happens I Love You
We see ourselves in the loss, in the grief and in the way forward. We are humbled that so many people opened their hearts to the film. A heartfelt thank you to @TheAcademy. Our film was created for the ones lost, and the ones left behind ❤️ #OscarNoms#Oscars2021#AcademyAwardspic.twitter.com/I5CDfWMMUO— If Anything Happens I Love You (@IfAnything_Film) March 15, 2021
Category: Best Animated Short
If Anything Happens I Love You is a 2D animated short that documents the grief experienced by two parents whose child was killed in a school shooting.
An estimated 3 million American children are exposed to shootings per year, according to the organization Everytown for Gun Safety. While the short focuses on the aftermath of the shooting, it highlights the tragedy of gun violence.
Where to watch:Netflix
It is up to every individual person to do the work and learn about systems of oppression that harm people around the world, as well as take action to demand equity. Let this year’s Oscar nominations serve as a start to how you can support marginalized populations and become a more informed Global Citizen.