Maybe the internet has already canceled the Oscars for being too white, but whether we like it or not, the prestigious statuette (along with its ceremony) is still a big deal for actors, directors, and pretty much anyone who works in the movie industry.
Because even in 2020, the Oscars remain fixated on seeing only in white. Black and Asian actors aren't the only ones getting cast out. Every year, Arab directors would send their films to the Academy but would rarely ever get nominated or snatch the chance to win.
This changed in the decade that passed, and it seems the change is continuing on into 2020. But that is not to say the recognition has reached its peak.
#OscarsSoWhite was once a trending hashtag, but continues to be proven factual with every passing year
Not to be too negative...
For the sake of focusing on the good and positive, even with the rare appearances and representations of Arabs in the major Hollywood event, we do recognize breakthroughs when they take place.
So here are 9 firsts for the Arab world in the Academy Awards:
1. First Arab film to ever be submitted (1959)
Youssef Chahine's universally acclaimed film and magnum opus Cairo Station was the first Arab and African film to be considered for the award in 1959, and subsequently the first to miss out on the nomination.
Chahine's film depicts a love triangle between three complex characters working in Cairo's train station. It starred Hend Rostom, Farid Chawky, and Chahine himself.
2. First Arab film to ever win (1970)
Although this film didn't tell an Arab story nor star Arab actors, it was co-produced by Algerian producer Ahmed Rachedi.
The eponymous film is based on the 1966 novel. It presents an account of the events surrounding the assassination of the democratic Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963.
Z was also the first film to ever get a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture.
3. First Saudi film to ever get sent (2014)
The first film to ever represent Saudi Arabia was Haifaa Al Mansour's Wadjda (2014). Although it didn't secure a nomination, it was a legendary step forward for the kingdom.
Saudi director Mahmoud Sabbagh followed in the footsteps of Mansour, submitting Barakah Meets Barakah - the kingdom's second-ever entry at the Academy Awards - to compete under the Best Foreign Language Film category.
Sabbagh's film did not get a nomination either.
4. First Jordanian film to get nominated (2016)
Jordan's highly acclaimed film Theeb was the country's first film to get an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
That year, it became the fourth Arabic-language film to be nominated for the award.
The film, directed and co-written by Jordanian director Naji Abu Nowar, was considered the only submission from the Middle East and North Africa in the running for the foreign-language film category in 2016.
The film was credited as being the "first Bedouin Western."
5. First Arab journalist to go famous for asking a question (2016)
Okay, technically, this isn't momentous or gratifying in any way. But one can't use Arab and Oscars in the same sentence without mentioning the Egyptian journalist who had one question to ask DiCaprio and decided to go with "What about your first Oscar?"
During the 88th Annual Academy Awards, journalist Shaimaa Abdel Moneim stole some of DiCaprio's spotlight during a press conference following his win.
A confused DiCaprio asked her to repeat the question, after which he responded rather puzzled with, "well yeah, it feels amazing... it is the first like I said, I am just incredibly grateful."
6. First Lebanese film to get nominated (2018)
Lebanese filmmaker Ziad Doueiri's feature film The Insult was nominated for an Oscar in 2018, the first-ever Lebanese film in history to ever make it that far off in the race.
The Insult was nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 90th Academy Awards.
7. First Arab actor to win (2019)
Rami Malek became the first Arab to take home an Oscar for his role as Freddie Mercury in Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody during the 91st Academy Awards last year.
The 37-year-old was competing against Bradley Cooper for his role in A Star Is Born, among a few others. As he accepted the award, Malek dedicated his speech to his Egyptian immigrant parents.
Before him, Legendary Egyptian actor Omar Sharif earned a nomination in 1963 for his role in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) under the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category. He didn't take home the Oscar award but won himself three Golden Globes.
8. First Arabs to be part of the voting process (2019)
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced in 2019 the members who will join the Oscars' voting committee, and several Arab stars made it to the list.
The 12 Arab stars who were on the Academy's list of voters are:
- From Egypt: Yousra, Amr Salama, Karim Amer, and Mohamed Hefzy.
- From Lebanon: Christopher Aoun, Jihad Hojeily, Hussein Baydoun, and Georges Schoucair.
- From other countries: Talal Derki (Syria), Raja Amari (Tunisia), Khadija Al-Salami (Yemen), and Maryam Touzani (Morocco).
9. First Arab woman to be nominated (2019)
Nadine Labaki's film earned a Golden Globes nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in December, making history as Lebanon's first entry into the prestigious ceremony.
Capharnaüm, which also scored an Oscar nomination, made Labaki the first female Lebanese filmmaker to make it to the Oscars, and only the second Lebanese filmmaker after Ziad Doueiri.