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Oscars 2022: Sound designer Resul Pookutty urges this year’s winners to keep mum in protest

Last month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) had announced that eight categories, including sound, will not be presented live.

Sonal Pandya

This weekend, one of the highest honours in filmmaking will be handed out in 23 categories at the 94th Academy Awards on 27 March. However, not every category winner will get their chance to speak live to the global audience expected to tune in.

Last month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), which votes on and hands out the Oscar trophies, announced that eight categories will not be presented live and will instead be handed out in a pre-telecast and the speeches would be edited down. These categories are documentary short, film editing, make-up and hairstyling, original score, production design, animated short, live action short and sound.

The decision angered much of the filmmmaking community, both in Hollywood and internationally, all of whom vote on the eventual winners. Filmmakers, and former Oscar winners like Guillermo Del Toro and Steven Spielberg, have spoken against the decision and the value of all crafts of filmmaking that make up a feature film.

Jessica Chastain, who is up for Best Actress for The Eyes Of Tammy Faye (2021), has stated that she will skip speaking to the press on the red carpet in order to support the make-up team from the film who are nominated and whose category will be up an hour before the show goes live.

Recently, the sound branch, one of the categories that isn’t going to be telecast live, banded together to draft a letter and sign a petition against this decision. Over 80 sound mixers and designers, including Oscar winners, spoke about the downgrading of their category and work in the telecast.

Cinestaan.com spoke to veteran sound mixer and designer Resul Pookutty about the issue. Pookutty, who also signed the letter with his peers, shared his disappointment with the Academy and urged this year’s winners to remain silent in protest when they are supposed to make their acceptance speeches.

In 2009, Pookutty, along with Richard Pryke and Ian Tapp, had won the Oscar for Best Sound Mixing for Slumdog Millionaire (2008).

He stated, “My take is [that] the filmmaking community is one of the most egalitarian societies. The way we go about making films is that there is no difference between people and their contribution. It’s a collective art.

“[The Academy] is set up to celebrate the best achievement in movie-making, irrespective of whatever is your trade. That is the foremost ideology. By way of removing eight categories from their main show, what the Academy has done is work against [its] basic tenets,” he continued.

“I say thank you Academy for reminding us that we are not egalitarian and working against the ethos of the film community itself,” he said. “Why have you done it? You have done it because there is a pressure from [television network] ABC, the corporation which is airing the [event]. For the sake of television, you are killing the basic values of the filmmaking community altogether.”

Pookutty added, “They have content because of us. This is a show where we celebrate our people; how can you concede to a viewpoint of a corporation? If the Academy comes out where we are in a situation where the corporation is saying this and we will not concede to it, I would have celebrated the Academy out in the open. That is what they should have done.

“Imagine what will happen to the corporation if every Oscar winner, and I urge them, everyone who is collecting their trophy does not give an acceptance speech. What will be your rating? That is what I would urge the Academy. We have done our duty as Academy members, we have watched your work, we have voted and the peers are celebrating it. At the same time, the peers are being discriminated.

“The only voice we have is not to speak this time,” he urged. “They want to silence us and we will be silent. You will have no acceptance speech, the show will be over in one hour. I urge every winner this year, don’t give your acceptance speech.”

This year’s ceremony is set to be hosted by Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes on ABC.

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Hollywood Oscars