The 2018 Oscars will be more representative of the LGBTQ community, and particularly, transgender individuals.
Nominated films like Call Me by Your Name, which explores a romance between two men, are championing the voices of LGBTQ people. And Daniela Vega and Yance Ford are among those breaking new ground. Vega, a 28-year-old Chilean actress, is making headlines for her celebrated performance in A Fantastic Woman, which scored a nomination for Best Foreign Film. And on Sunday night, she will make history as the first openly transgender performer to present at the Academy Awards. And Yance Ford is now the first transgender director to be nominated for an Oscar. His film Strong Island is recognized in the best documentary feature category for Sunday's 90th Oscars.
Below, more about each of them.
In A Fantastic Woman, portrays a transgender woman named Marina who falls in love with a man named Orlando (Francisco Reyes). Spoiler alert: Orlando dies, and Marina is forced to grapple with the fact that his family doesn’t want her involved, despite the fact that she’s mourning the one she loved. It’s significant that Vega, a transgender woman, portrays another transgender woman on the big screen when recent highly lauded portrayals of transgender people include Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club and Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl.
What’s also important to note is that Vega, who was born in Chile, wants to be recognized for her talent first and foremost—not just for the fact that she is broadening the world’s understanding of what it means to be transgender. “I feel that I’m really an actress. I don’t feel like I’m a symbol of anything—I’m not an activist,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “I truly appreciate that I’m getting a lot of love from the public, from everybody, from the media. But I respect those people who are activists, who are committed to changing the world and to having an impact from a legislative standpoint when it comes to the LGBT community. But my, myself, I feel that I am an actress and that’s my role.”
A Fantastic Woman director Sebastián Lelio discovered Vega at a beauty salon where she worked in Santiago, Chile. He asked her what it was like to be a transgender woman in South America, and he remembers her presenting him an ID with her masculine identity on it. “I was just in awe,” Lelio told Time and explained that Chile does not recognize the existence transgender people.
Director Yance Ford made his debut with Strong Island and it's certainly making waves this year. It’s nominated for best documentary feature, and the honor makes him the first openly transgender director to receive a nod from the Academy.
The film is based on his own true story, though it isn’t an LGBTQ-specific tale. In it, Ford highlights what happened to his late African American brother William, who was shot by a white man following an argument at a New York auto body shop in 1992. “The police had turned my brother into the prime suspect in his own murder,” Ford says in the film.
In January, Ford told Entertainment Weekly what the nomination meant to him. “I think that everybody out there should know that there is a generation of trans directors who are coming for their Oscars,” Ford told EW. “So this might be the first, but it certainly won’t be the last.”