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Why Demian Bichir’s Oscar Nomination Isn’t Entirely A Good Thing

The nominees for the 84th Annual Academy Awards– The Oscars– were announced today and amongst them was Demián Bichir. The Mexican actor is in contention for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role”  because of A Better Life, a film in which he plays the undocumented worker and single father Carlos Galindo.

If you didn’t catch A Better Life, don’t worry about it. Neither did most of America (according to Box Office Mojo, the film’s widest release was 216 theaters and it only earned $1,759,252 domestically). You can watch the film trailer below:

Having seen the film, do I think that Demián Bichir deserves the nomination? Yes but it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter because he’s not going to win it. I can’t say with much certainty who will, but if I were to guess, my money would be on either Brad Pitt for Moneyball, Gary Oldman for Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy, or Jean Dujardin for The Artist (a film that critics have been creaming their pants over).

Despite his infinitesimal chances of winning I do think that Bichir deserves the recognition for his portrayal of Carlos Galindo, if only because the Mexican actor took a hackneyed character and injected him with multiple dimensions. Seriously, I can’t stress enough how stereotypical the film was, which isn’t particularly surprising because the writers and directors are white ( directed by Chris Weitz, written by Eric Eason, and based on a story by Roger L. Simon, a well-known conservative). Weitz & Co. took the premise of The Bicycle Thief, changed the characters from Italian to Mexican, placed them in East L.A., and called it a film.

And that’s why I have a problem with Bichir’s nomination. It validates both the film and the team behind it whether he wins or not, presenting the latter as “Whites In Shining Armor” who are giving a voice and a face to an entire subset of the U.S. population that most of America likes to pretend is anonymous. It’s no different than The Helpa film that spends its entire duration patting white people on the back for writing about black maids in the South during the civil rights movement– or even ¡Rob!, a sitcom that portrays a white person’s view of what Mexican families are like.

So what’s the solution? Do what Julia Ahumada Grob suggested in her Latino Rebels guest post: turn off the television, stop giving money to these filmmakers, and make our own shows and films. I do think that a film like A Better Life needs to be made, but by people who have the requisite personal experiences to give a semblance of honesty and truth to the story.

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