The presence of the best picture winner’s cast and team changed what all guests experienced inside the Dolby Theatre and what viewers saw on TV during the Academy Awards on Sunday night.
With CODA‘s historic wins at the 2022 Oscars on Sunday night, the film, its cast and its creative team helped spotlight American Sign Language and ASL interpretation in a series of historic moments for the Deaf community in Hollywood and beyond.
The entire CODA cast closed out the 94th annual Academy Awards with their big best picture win, taking center stage at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles to signed applause as they accepted their honor with an ASL interpreter next to them. Yet, the historic night for CODA’s team actually began much earlier in the ceremony, with best supporting actor winner Troy Kotsur’s speech.
Along with his heartfelt acceptance and tribute to his father — a win that marked only the second time in Oscars history that a Deaf actor has won and the first time a male actor has received a performance honor — the moment garnered attention partly because of Kotsur’s interpreter, Justin Mauer. After working with Kotsur throughout awards season, Mauer got choked up while signing the actor’s speech and patted the Oscar winner on the back as they exited the stage.
Before saying Kotsur had won, 2021’s best supporting actress winner and this year’s best supporting actor presenter Youn Yuh-jung also signed Kotsur’s name and as the CODA star ascended the stage, much of the Oscars in-person crowd could be seen signing their applause for the first time that night.
CODA director-writer Sian Heder also centered ASL during the ceremony and the live broadcast when she brought an interpreter on stage to sign her speech — making it accessible to her entire cast — as she accepted her best adapted screenplay honor during the Sunday night ceremony, which took place at the Dolby Theatre and was telecast on ABC.
And at the top of the show, Oscars host Amy Schumer gave a special shout-out to the Apple film — the first from a streamer to win in the best picture category — signing that she loved the movie to the crowd.But the power of CODA and its elevation of the Deaf community and ASL didn’t just happen when the film’s winners took to the Dolby stage. It was also in how the cast and creative team’s very presence at the show, alongside other nominated films featuring deaf subjects, Audible and Drive My Car, made the show more accessible for those in the theater and at home.