Ahead of its telecast on February 24 (February 25 in India), the Oscar presentation ceremony is facing outrage over the decision of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to not televise handing out of the trophies in cinematography, editing, live action short, and makeup and hair categories. The announcement that the awards would be presented during commercial breaks has led to intense criticism from filmmakers including previous Oscar-winners Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón as well as cinema lovers. Editors, cinematographers and directors from the Indian film industry comment on the issue.
Writer-Director (Andhadhun, Ek Haseena Thi)
It is silly. It doesn’t make sense to me. As Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón have said in their tweets, movie-making is a complete teamwork. During the Indian award ceremonies too, they have a section of awards which they call technical awards. Presentation of these is usually a hurried affair. The idea is that the main function will start after these are given away. However, you somehow don’t expect the Academy to take such a step.
Cinematographer (Airlift, Dhobi Ghat)
Before we start looking at what the Academy and the West are doing, this is a good time to look at us. They are doing it for the first time. We have done it every time. Even as Indians are going up in arms against this decision, we should self-correct first. Those protesting should first refrain from going for award ceremonies till technicians get equal recognition in India. Needless to say movies are made by technicians. Yet, Indian award ceremonies are actor-centric. The Academy seems to think along the same lines. Most awards, barring some, don’t even have technical categories. This is the time for us to introspect and think about the respect our technicians should get.
Cinematographer (Badlapur, Highway, Kal Ho Na Ho)
It’s ironical that last year 20 Indians, including technicians like me, editor Ballu Saluja and sound designer Biswadeep Chatterjee were invited by the Academy to be its members. We thought it was wonderful that the Academy was looking outwards. They were looking out for people who are not part of their mainstream. Now, it’s shocking to hear that the presentation of awards for cinematography and editing, which are two crucial elements in filmmaking, is being relegated to commercial breaks. I always consider cinematographers, editors and sound designers to be co-writers. If they are not going to be shown the respect they deserve, I don’t think their priority is right. It is unfortunate that such a decision has been taken under the chairmanship of John Bailey, who is a well-known cinematographer.
Cinematographer-Director (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Gurgaon, Harud)
Such a decision is absurd. Awards are a way of celebrating someone’s work and excellence. They should not be treated like hand-outs. They might as well send the trophies home. For me, a cinematographer is like one of the parents on the sets. They might be technicians at the very core but they bring in their life experiences and a certain interpretation of the script that a director has in mind. Without a cinematographer, there is no image-making. This decision makes it clear that awards are another way of generating business/money than celebrating excellence.
Irene Dhar Malik
Editor (Celluloid Man, I Am)
People mostly think that all problems — during the shoot and script — will be sorted at the editing stage. When it comes down to giving the editor his/her dues, that does not often take place. Barring a few, editors are paid peanuts if you compare their payment with cinematographers, forget actors. Such a decision is an extension of this mindset. Editors are the ones who put a film together. People want to watch stars but technicians make the movie. The Academy should know better. But they seem to have given in to the market.
This is an unfortunate decision. A commercial break should be just that. You should not miss seeing something important when the break is on. People everywhere want to see stars and glamour. These awards, too, cater to the same. It’s sad but that’s the reality.