What is interesting about the Oscar winner CODA

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Cover of the material: a frame from the movie “CODA: The Child of Deaf Parents” / AppleTV +

CODA: The Child of Deaf Parents won three statuettes at the 2022 Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Troy Kotsur) and Best Picture. In 2021, the indie drama became a sensation at the Sundance Festival: it set a record by winning four nominations for the first time in the history of the festival – for best film, direction, acting ensemble and won the Audience Award. After that, he bought the rights to the film from the Apple TV + service record for the company $ 25 million – this investment brought them the first ever Oscar victory for a project with streaming and provided record for views: after the triumph, the drama attracted 25% of new viewers to the service.

We tell you how the jury of the Independent Film Festival and the film academics liked the film equally. And we also explain why CODA is not a typical Oscar-winning social campaign, but a funny and touching movie for a wide audience.


High school student Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones) is the only deaf person in the family. Every day she wakes up early in the morning and goes fishing with her father and brother at sea – this business brings the poor family a basic income. Immediately after hard work, Ruby goes to school, where she is considered strange and ridiculed for the unpleasant smell of fish. The heroine communicates with few people because she is constantly attached to the house – she is a translator for her relatives. Everything changes when Ruby enrolls in the vocal section and discovers the talent of a singer. She finds it difficult to combine new lessons and work, which leads to disagreements in the family.

CODA is a true illustration of the life of the deaf

CODA is a remake of the French film The Lingerie Family (2014). But a typical remake of the picture of Shan Heyder (“Tallulah”, “Shine”, “Orange – the hit of the season”) can not be called. The director completely rewrote the script, added more drama and moved the action to the American countryside. Only the foundation remains of the original – the story of a hearing teenage girl in a family of the deaf, who is used as a sign language interpreter.

The main difference between the two films is the actors and the director’s approach. The Lingerie Family was played by hearing people who had learned sign language. Haider immediately abandoned the idea and conducted casting only among deaf actors.

The first to take on the role of mother was Marley Matlin (“Children of Silence”, “The Player”, “My Name is Earl”) – the only deaf Oscar winner for the leading female role (1986 film “Children of Silence”). Then Troy Kotsur (“Fatal Number 23”, “Clinic”, “Mandalorets”) and Daniel Durand (“They were confused in the maternity hospital”, “You”) – actors from the deaf theaters – took on the role of father. The first will also go down in history and receive an Oscar – for best supporting role.

Haider sought to show the lives of the deaf as authentically as possible and without undue moralizing – to focus on life and relationships. Before filming, the director immersed himself in the culture of the deaf and learned sign language. She is originally decidedthat will abandon the style of storytelling “The Lingerie Family”, where the main character has always voiced dialogues of deaf family members. Hayder chose subtitles so as not to lose momentum and to reflect the worldview of the characters as accurately as possible. She always spoke on her own in sign language – including in the pause between shootings.

The director constantly noticed the mistakes of the set designers and other team members. For example, one day she noticed inaccuracies in the implementation of the interior of the house – the furniture of the hearing impaired is always located so that family members can see each other at any time and sit opposite.

Multi-genre, black humor and teenage love: why CODA is not an inclusive Oscar campaign

Matlin especially appreciated this approach. As the most experienced actress from the caste, she is noticed contrast – for the first time in her career on set, most of the team communicated not with words but with gestures. The actress said that she will not watch “The Lingerie Family” because she does not want to see hearing people try to authentically embody deaf characters. Instead, she is completely trusted to the director and tried to build a play on her experience: Matlin is a mother of four hearing children.

Another proof of Heider’s respect for the culture of the deaf is a script devoid of pretentious pity and morality. The director focused on experiences that are familiar to all people: difficulties at work, difficulties in building relationships, the problem of fathers and children. Minor characters treat the Rossi family as equals – no one makes concessions at work out of pity, and strangers in the bar are open to any kind of communication. CODA is not a film where the deaf are shown as victims who live much harder and worse than hearing people.

CODA is a black comedy

Another goal Haider chose is a story about the life of the deaf in a humorous way. Before the premiere, it is much more the hotel to hear laughter while watching, instead of seeing tears in the eyes of the audience in the finale:

“It was my greatest joy to hear loud laughter in the beginning. Usually everyone tells me after watching: “I cried so much!” And I’m like, “Okay, did you laugh?”

Despite the obvious comedic roll and inspiring happy ending Heyder does not likewhen critics call CODA a “good mood movie.” According to her, this category is usually used when talking about kind and uncomplicated ordinary dramas. But at the same time, the director is glad that in the difficult times of the pandemic, her film is able to lift people’s spirits:

“We’ve been through a really tough couple of years as a species. I think everyone wants to watch a movie about love and family, and it can really make you feel better. That’s why I see phrases about “tearful and pleasant film” as compliments – I think it’s really important now that stories heal us. “

Multi-genre, black humor and teenage love: why CODA is not an inclusive Oscar campaign

Hayder uses black humor and emphasizes physicality to convey even more accurately the features of the life of the deaf. The coexistence of deaf parents and a hearing daughter constantly leads to ridiculous and funny situations.

Haider took the comedy component seriously and allowed actors improvise a lot, adding episodes from personal life and a kind of humor of the deaf. Sign language translators helped her edit the script, explaining that the hard of hearing also have humor. It is based on ambiguous and barely discernible gestures. For example, Hayder memorized and added to the film a scene with a “waffle” gesture, which in an inaccurate demonstration can be interpreted as @ ## $% [конец].

CODA is a teenage drama

CODA is a non-standard Oscar winner, not because of the status of an indie film and a cast of hearing-impaired actors. Among the winners of previous years, the picture stands out by genre – it is quite a classic teenage drama.

The plot revolves around a schoolgirl who aspires to a dream – to enter the Berkeley College of Music. In an attempt to achieve the desired, the heroine faces typical teenage problems: misunderstandings between generations, ridicule from peers and the first romantic feeling.

The main conflict of the film lies not in the plane of “deaf daughter and hearing parents”, but in the inability to achieve the desired due to life circumstances. Ruby’s talent allows her to become a talented singer, but moving to another city will leave the family not only without a daughter, but also without a translator and key employee.

Multi-genre, black humor and teenage love: why CODA is not an inclusive Oscar campaign

Parents are physically unable to appreciate their daughter’s talent, so the heroine is doomed to misunderstanding. Ruby’s story reflects the popular leitmotifs of teenage dramas – she feels alien and superfluous everywhere, constantly unsure of her abilities and afraid of the future. According to the canons of the genre, everything changes when the heroine goes against the system – she loses the trust of loved ones, but gains love and a chance to change lives.

CODA is woven from the standard paths of teenage cinema, which viewers have seen many times in other films: from the “Society of Dead Poets” and “Twilight” to the series “Chorus” and “Sex Education”. The film has a lot of black humor, there is a mentor character (vocal teacher), the conflict of generations is vividly reflected, the features of adulthood are shown and the love line is clearly drawn. Quite a classic drama for streaming, where there is a dramatic swing and a happy ending. All the more surprising is that CODA turned out to be such a little-known film.

CODA is a musical

CODA stands for Child of Deaf Adults. But the title has a second meaning: coda is a musical term that denotes the final part of the work. Music becomes one of the central themes of the film and an important instrument for the final act of the story.

Multi-genre, black humor and teenage love: why CODA is not an inclusive Oscar campaign

Heider created the love line according to the canons of the musical. The vocal teacher suggested that Ruby and the guy she was secretly in love with form a duet for the concert and sing You’re All I Need to Get By Marvin Gaye and Tammy Tarrell. The song about love and devotion becomes the leitmotif of the film, at the same time illustrating the relationship between Ruby and her parents, as well as clearly showing the evolution of her relationship with her lover. At first they sing shyly and uncertainly, but gradually they find harmony and complement each other. Each episode of the song reflects a new stage in the relationship of the characters and according to the canons of musicals replaces the dialogue.

The finale is also in the spirit of the music genre. While in college, Ruby sang Johnny Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” a story about how different identities find harmony.

Music is as significant a component of the film as the life of the deaf and black humor. Starring Emilia Jones passed casting largely due to appropriate vocal data. Hearing-impaired actors are also associated with music. For example, Marley Matlin admitsthat often listens to songs with special hearing aids. And in 2008 she even participated in the show “Dancing with the Stars”, where she learned to perceive music in her own way.

CODA is a story told through contrasts. Music is next to the world of the deaf, love is next to bullying, black humor is next to touching drama, and teenage cinema is next to instruments from musicals. It is no coincidence that Haider chose the main songs of You’re All I Need to Get By and Both Sides Now – stories about close ties and attracting opposites. This theme became central in the film, receiving due to an obvious feature and social connotations – if the contrasts can be collected triumphant “Oscar”, then why deaf filmmakers can not harmoniously blend into the community?

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