Two Arab female filmmakers have been nominated for what is shaping up to the most diverse Oscars yet. Tunisian-born director Kaouther Ben Hania’s The Man Who Sold His Skin is nominated under the Best International Feature Film category while Palestinian-British director Farah Nabulsi’s The Present will compete for the Best Live Action Short award.
Hani’s film stars Yahya Mahayani playing a Syrian refugee who allows his body to become a canvas for a famous tattoo artist. The film uniquely presents complex themes surrounding refugees and their struggle with crossing borders and acquiring residency permits. Nabulsi’s The Present takes you on a complicated journey centered around a simple act of kindness. Yusef played by Saleh Bakri and his young onscreen daughter set out in the West Bank to buy his wife a gift for their wedding anniversary. However, they are faced with soldiers, segregated roads, and checkpoints.
After receiving backlash over the lack of diversity among both, the members of the Academy itself, and the Oscar nominees and winners selected, this year’s awards seem to be making history with the number of nominations from underrepresented groups. For the first time, two female filmmakers are nominated for Best Director with Chloe Zhao and Emerald Fennell receiving nods for their films Nomadland and Promising Young Woman. Six Black actors have also been nominated this year: Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield are nominated for Best Supporting Actor for their roles in Judas and the Black Messiah, and Leslie Odom Jr. for his role in One Night in Miami. Viola Davis and Andra Day are both nominated for Best Actress for their musical roles in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Lastly, Chadwick Boseman is posthumously nominated for Best Actor.