Migration scored with film audiences in 2018 as films like “Roma,” “Capernaum,” “Cold War,” “Lifeboat,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” all touched on themes of human mobility and were recognized for Oscar nominations for their acting, direction, writing and cinematography.
Every year the Academy Awards' broadcast from Hollywood is seen worldwide by millions, who are reminded of film’s enduring connection to migration and those human dramas inherent in tales of renewal and reinvention. It’s the same tradition that resonates within IOM’s annual Global Migration Film Festival, now in the planning stages for its fourth celebration later this year. Motion pictures remain a global art form that was founded by immigrants for immigrants more than a century ago, and to be shared by people from all backgrounds on all continents.
And, as with any work of art, sometimes the hidden, subliminal message is the one that most resonates. That certainly was true during Sunday night’s Oscar Broadcast, where three of the five artists nominated in the category Best Director were migrants born abroad: from Greece (Yorgos Lanthimos, nominated for directing “The Favourite”), from México (Alfonso Cuarón, for “Roma”) and from Poland (Pawel Pawlikowski for “Cold War”). The Oscar went to Mr. Cuarón for his stunning drama about the life of a Mexican migrant, a woman who journeys from rural México's capital during the turbulent 1960s.
Other reminders abounded. An actor whose family migrated to the U.S. from Egypt (Rami Malek) won the Best Actor Award playing a rock star who emigrated from Zanzibar to the U.K. to reinvent himself as the singer known as Freddy Mercury in the biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The actress Yalitza Aparicio, who played the lead in Mr. Cuarón’s “Roma,” was the first ever Oscar nominee whose native tongue is not English (or even Spanish), but the indigenous Mixtec of southern México. Another actor seen during the broadcast performed in the Best Foreign Language category-nominated "Capernaum,” which starred Zain al-Rafeea. Three years ago, Zain al-Rafeea was one of the thousands of Syrian refugees crowded into Beirut, illiterate and unschooled. At 14, resettled with his family in Norway, the actor was chosen to star in the Oscar-nominated film by Lebanese director Nadine Labaki. That film did not win a statuette, but Zain's presence at the event Sunday night reminded all watching of the many ways film celebrates the dignity of migrants in our time. And for all time.