CODA should not have been a strong contender for best picture at the Oscars based on statistics. Despite only receiving three nominations, the little, independent film came away from the 94th Academy Awards with trophies for each of them, including the big one, best picture.
CODA is an acronym for Child of Deaf Adults and depicts the storey of a deaf family’s hearing daughter who must balance the duties of assisting them in their everyday lives with her own ambitions to be a singer.
When best picture was announced
Emilia Jones, who plays the lead in the film, expressed her delight at the film’s Oscar win, saying she was “on cloud nine.”
The crowd applauded in sign language as the cast and crew accepted the award for outstanding film in a poignant moment. Jones expressed her joy at seeing nominees Andrew Garfield and Ariana DeBose signing autographs with her co-star and best supporting actor winner Troy Kotsur.
Jones, who learned sign language to appear in the film, stated, “It’s been very amazing watching people adapt and develop and learn additional signs.” “I’m genuinely overjoyed.” Marlee Matlin, her co-star, was similarly taken aback. “A lot of people will be thinking about deaf performers now”, she said.
She added, “It’s incredible that our movement has finally been heard and that we’ve broken through all of the hurdles. It’s fantastic to see how much people appreciate and honour us. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been waiting 35 years to notify people that there are deaf performers out there looking for work.”
The Sian Heder-directed picture, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2021 and was released to streaming audiences in August of that year, has quietly but steadily gained a devoted following and become a word-of-mouth hit. CODA is an English-language version of Éric Lartigau’s 2014 French film La Famille Bélier.
Following the film’s box office success in France, producer Philippe Rousselet approached filmmaker Heder, who was born in Massachusetts, about adapting the storey for a US audience.
Coda was chosen over prior frontrunners like The Power of the Dog and Belfast by Oscar voters in a similar fashion. Coda’s feel-good tone makes it an unexpected victory; the last dramedy to win best picture was The Artist in 2011; and the last time a film won best picture with fewer than four overall nominations was Grand Hotel in 1932.
What made CODA win the best picture?
When the nominees were released in early February, Coda didn’t get a lot of love from the Academy. However, once voters caught up on the best picture nominations they’d missed, it became extremely popular.
“I feel extremely blessed and grateful that people have been so lovely about the movie so it means we can keep marketing it,” Jones said, describing the last six months as a “fantastic experience.”