The Gold List Aims To Make Sure Asian Actors And Filmmakers Strike Oscar Gold

Asians have been historically underrepresented at the Oscars and in other major entertainment awards.
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Last February, in one of the final big cultural moments of the Before Times, 鈥淧arasite鈥 won the Oscar for Best Picture, becoming the first non-English-language movie to win the top prize. The film鈥檚 director, Bong Joon-ho, also took home Oscars for Best Director, Best International Film (the first South Korean movie to win in the category) and Best Original Screenplay (with his co-writer, Han Jin-won). It was a seismic moment for Korean and Asian representation.

But none of the film鈥檚 cast members were nominated for acting awards, part of a longstanding pattern of Asian actors鈥 underrepresentation at the Academy Awards. That same year, Lulu Wang鈥檚 鈥淭he Farewell,鈥 starring Awkwafina, was shut out of the Oscars completely despite garnering universal critical acclaim and winning other major awards.

A new initiative wants to make sure this year isn鈥檛 a repeat, convening a group of film industry professionals to give films by Asian directors and featuring Asian stars an added boost.

The Gold List is like a 鈥淔or Your Consideration鈥 ad for movies starring Asian actors and/or directed by Asian filmmakers. Each year during awards season, studios, distributors and their publicity teams launch often-costly advertising campaigns to promote their awards contenders. The Gold List, released on Monday, is a collaboration between two nonprofit organizations working to improve AAPI representation in culture: Gold House and Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment. (Read the full list below.)

The goal is to give the films more visibility, according to Gold House co-founder Bing Chen, so that members of various awards bodies will put them on their radars as awards season starts to take off in the coming weeks, leading up to the Oscars in April.

鈥淭he timing is no coincidence,鈥 Chen said. 鈥淢any of these films, particularly indies, often don鈥檛 have the budgets to run expensive For Your Consideration campaigns, or their filmmakers or studios and so forth don鈥檛 have the level of access that may be essential in ensuring nominations and eventual wins.鈥

The cast and crew of Parasite at the Oscars last February.
The cast and crew of Parasite at the Oscars last February.
Eric McCandless via Getty Images

The list features a variety of movies, filmmakers and performances, many of which are already receiving lots of Oscar buzz, like director Chlo茅 Zhao (鈥淣omadland鈥) and actors Riz Ahmed (鈥淪ound of Metal鈥) and Steven Yeun (鈥淢inari鈥).

In the 93-year history of the Oscars, only a handful of actors of Asian descent have been nominated, and only three have won. The last time an Asian actor was nominated in an acting category was Dev Patel for 2016鈥瞫 鈥淟ion.鈥 Eight years earlier, Patel was the breakout star of 鈥淪lumdog Millionaire,鈥 which won Best Picture. But like 鈥淧arasite,鈥 鈥淪lumdog Millionaire鈥 did not receive any acting nominations. In fact, of the four movies with Asian leads that have won Best Picture, only one, 1982鈥瞫 鈥淕andhi,鈥 received an acting nomination: that year鈥檚 Best Actor winner, Ben Kingsley, who is of South Asian descent.

The historical dearth of Asian representation at the Oscars has become more glaring in recent years amid the push for more on-screen representation in Hollywood and an undeniable wave of commercially successful, critically acclaimed films directed by Asian filmmakers and/or starring Asian actors.

The massive box-office success of 2018鈥瞫 鈥淐razy Rich Asians,鈥 the first Hollywood studio movie in 25 years with a majority-Asian cast, was a watershed moment for Asian representation. One of Gold House鈥檚 other initiatives, Gold Open, works to make sure Asian-led and Asian-directed films perform well at the box office during their crucial opening weekends and to help make sure more AAPI viewers get access to those movies.

Awards institutions like the Academy have been slower to catch up, demonstrating that Hollywood has to do more work in recognizing that Asians are a powerful force in culture and entertainment 鈥 as creators and as consumers.

鈥淲e know we can hit commercial success, but then when you look at critical acclaim, there鈥檚 a lopsidedness here,鈥 Chen said.

And it鈥檚 not just making films specific for AAPI audiences, as Chen pointed out. It鈥檚 recognizing that those films 鈥 while being culturally specific and helping AAPI moviegoers feel more seen and heard 鈥 also can have universal resonance and transcend categorizations.

鈥淲e have to get to a point where we realize people are not just watching content that looks like them. People are also watching content that they love,鈥 Chen said, noting that for example, 鈥渁nime is a genre that has transcended any specific country or race.鈥

We know we can hit commercial success, but then when you look at critical acclaim, there鈥檚 a lopsidedness here.

Gold House co-founder Bing Chen

Chen also pointed to the universal themes of movies like 鈥淭he Farewell鈥 and 鈥淧arasite,鈥 and the ways 鈥淢inari鈥 is 鈥渁n aggressively American story.鈥 Written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, it depicts a Korean American family in rural Arkansas in the 1980s, starring Yeun as a husband and father trying to reconcile his idealistic vision of the American dream with the harsh reality of survival.

But because most of the film鈥檚 dialogue is in Korean, the movie is being forced to compete as a 鈥渇oreign language movie鈥 at the Golden Globes. 鈥淭he Farewell鈥 suffered a similar fate, despite also being an American film directed by an American filmmaker and featuring an American star. Chen said the Golden Globes鈥 rule simply doesn鈥檛 reflect reality: Many Americans across many racial and ethnic groups speak multiple languages in their daily lives and/or don鈥檛 speak English as their primary language.

The disparity between the financial power of Asian-led and Asian-directed movies and their relative lack of awards recognition likewise fails to reflect reality and creates the perception that 鈥渙ur stories are worthy but our souls aren鈥檛,鈥 Chen said. 鈥淪o when people don鈥檛 see you, you know, we feel like we have to show them who we are. And we think a list that鈥檚 distilled and voted on by the purveyors of top AAPI films is one way to do that.鈥

Read the full Gold List below.

Best Picture

鈥淢inari鈥 and Sound of Metal鈥

Honorable Mentions: 鈥淭he Half of It,鈥 鈥淭he White Tiger,鈥 鈥淵ellow Rose鈥

Best Director

Lee Isaac Chung (鈥Minari鈥) and Chloe Zhao (鈥Nomadland鈥)

Honorable Mentions: Ramin Bahrani (鈥淭he White Tiger鈥), Diane Paragas (鈥淵ellow Rose鈥), Alice Wu (鈥淭he Half of It鈥), Alan Yang (鈥淭igertail鈥)

Best Actor

Riz Ahmed (鈥Sound of Metal鈥) and Steven Yeun (鈥Minari鈥)

Honorable Mentions: Adarsh Gourav (鈥淭he White Tiger鈥), Dev Patel (鈥淭he Personal History of David Copperfield鈥), Harry Shum Jr. (鈥淎ll My Life鈥)

Best Actress

Yeri Han (鈥淢inari鈥) and Leah Lewis (鈥The Half of It鈥)

Honorable Mentions: Hong Chau (鈥淒riveways鈥), Tsai Chin (鈥淟ucky Grandma鈥), Eva Noblezada (鈥淵ellow Rose鈥)

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Kim (鈥Minari鈥) and Orion Lee (鈥First Cow鈥)

Honorable Mentions: Lucas Jaye (鈥淒riveways鈥), Tzi Ma (鈥淢ulan鈥), Rajkummar Rao (鈥淭he White Tiger鈥)

Best Supporting Actress

Phillipa Soo (鈥Hamilton鈥) and Yuh-Jung Youn (鈥Minari鈥)

Honorable Mentions: Priyanka Chopra Jonas (鈥淭he White Tiger鈥), Gong Li (鈥淢ulan鈥), Lea Salonga (鈥淵ellow Rose鈥)

Best Original Screenplay

Lee Isaac Chung (鈥Minari鈥) and Alice Wu (鈥The Half of It鈥)

Honorable Mentions: Mong-Hong Chung and Yao-Sheng Chang (鈥淎 Sun鈥), Diane Paragas (鈥淵ellow Rose鈥), Isabel Sandoval (鈥淟ingua Franca鈥), Alan Yang (鈥淭igertail鈥)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Ramin Bahrani (鈥The White Tiger鈥) and Chloe Zhao (鈥Nomadland鈥)

Best Documentary Feature

鈥淏e Water鈥 and A Thousand Cuts鈥

Honorable Mentions: 鈥76 Days,鈥 鈥淭he Donut King,鈥 鈥淭he Social Dilemma鈥

Best Animated Feature

鈥淏ombay Rose鈥 and Over the Moon鈥

Honorable Mentions: 鈥淒emon Slayer: Mugen Train,鈥 鈥淥n-Gaku: Our Sound,鈥 鈥淎 Whisker Away鈥

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