A Mexican actor triumphed at Sunday night’s Academy Awards when the film CODA took best picture.
Eugenio Derbez played the character Bernardo Villalobos, a music teacher to a high school student with a talent for singing unknown to her deaf family. CODA, an abbreviation of Child of Deaf Adults, was directed and produced by Sian Heder.
Derbez explained that moments before the award was announced, he held hands with his co-stars, including deaf actors Troy Kotsur and Marlee Matlin. He said the triumph sent a positive political message.
“It’s the most emotional moment of my career … Right now there’s so much talk about inclusion and diversity. It’s the perfect film [to win right now] and I think the fact that they’ve given the award to a low-budget film without the name of a Hollywood star speaks volumes about inclusion,” he said.
Derbez added that he never expected CODA to take the prize.
“It was a surprise because two weeks ago we were not the favorites. The Power of the Dog was the movie that was thought most likely to win and suddenly two weeks ago our movie started to move up and we started to have a great chance. But we didn’t expect to win,” he said.
CODA triumphed over other strong contenders like Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune.
However, Derbez added that he wasn’t satisfied by the award and would return to directing for a shot at future glory.
“Now I’m going for my own award … I’m looking forward to directing again … whenever I act in a film I’m left wanting to give more. I think the only way to do things exactly how I want to is to direct myself, so that’s my next step, directing here in the U.S.,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mexican director Guillermo del Toro was left empty handed after his film Nightmare Alley failed to pick up any awards, despite nominations for best picture, best cinematography, best costume design and best production design.
Del Toro’s 2006 film Pan’s Labyrinth won three Academy Awards and his 2017 work The Shape of Water won four, including best director and best picture.