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Apple’s Coda beats Netflix’s The Power of the Dog to historic Oscar win

Apple TV’s Coda, about a teenager who is the only hearing member of a deaf family, has become the first streaming film to win best picture at the Oscars.

Once considered the underdog, Coda beat the presumed frontrunner, the Netflix western The Power of the Dog.

Sir Kenneth Branagh and Riz Ahmed were among the British winners on Sunday.

Jessica Chastain won best actress, but the ceremony was overshadowed when best actor winner Will Smith hit Chris Rock over a joke about his wife, Jada.

The King Richard star later used his emotional acceptance speech to apologise to the Academy and his fellow nominees.

That incident shocked the attendees and millions of watching viewers, and cast a shadow over the rest of the ceremony.

The best picture win for Coda – which stands for Children of Deaf Adults – was a victory for a low-budget, independent film that has been praised for its representation of a deaf family, and for its casting of deaf actors.

They included Marlee Matlin, who became the first deaf Oscar winner 35 years ago, and Troy Kotsur, who became the second on Sunday when he won best supporting actor.

Delivering his speech via an interpreter, Kotsur dedicated his Oscar to “the deaf community, the Coda community and the disabled community”, adding: “This is our moment.”

Emilia Jones with her Coda co-stars
Image caption, British actress Emilia Jones (centre) played the lead character in Coda

The film’s 17-year-old daughter is played by British actress Emilia Jones, the daughter of Welsh singer and TV presenter Aled Jones.

“I can’t believe it,” Emilia Jones told BBC News. “I honestly can’t. When they called Coda out, we all just couldn’t believe it. You know, we’re the little underdog independent movie that kind of did it. And I’m just so grateful to everybody that has watched the movie, loved the movie and supported it. I’m on cloud nine.”

With Coda, Apple thwarted Netflix’s quest to become the first streaming service to win the prestigious best picture prize.

The Power of the Dog ended up winning one award from its 12 nominations – best director for Jane Campion. The New Zealand film-maker became just the third woman to win best director in the 94-year history of the Academy Awards.

She is also the second in a row, following Nomadland’s Chloe Zhao last year.

Jane Campion with her Oscar
Image caption, Director Jane Campion was previously nominated for The Piano in 1994

Sci-fi epic Dune won the most awards overall with six, including most of the technical categories, while Chastain won her first Oscar for playing televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye.

Ariana DeBose won best supporting actress for playing Anita in West Side Story, 60 years after Rita Moreno won the same award for playing the same role in the musical’s first film adaptation.

She described Moreno, 90, who was in the audience, as a “divine inspiration”, adding: “I’m so grateful your Anita paved the way for tonnes of Anitas like me.”

DeBose described herself as an “openly queer woman of colour, an Afro-Latina who found her strength in life through art and that’s what I believe we’re here to celebrate”.

Ariana DeBose (left) and Jessica Chastain with Troy Kotsur and their Oscars
Image caption, Ariana DeBose (left) won best supporting actress and Jessica Chastain won best actress

Referring to a West Side Story lyric, she added: “So anybody who’s ever questioned your identity – ever, ever, ever – or you find yourself living in the grey spaces, I promise you this – there is indeed a place for us.”

Sir Kenneth Branagh won his first ever Oscar, earning best original screenplay for writing the story of his own childhood at the start of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s in his black-and-white film Belfast.

“This is an enormous honour for my family and a great tribute to an amazing city and fantastic people,” he said.

Sir Kenneth Branagh with his Oscar
Image caption, Sir Kenneth Branagh won best original screenplay, the first Oscar of his career

Riz Ahmed won best live action short film for The Long Goodbye, which depicts a British Asian family who are preparing for a wedding when they are rounded up by fictional state forces wearing balaclavas and St George’s crosses.

“In such divided times we believe the role of story is to remind us there’s no us and them, there’s just us,” he told the audience.

The other British winners included Jenny Beavan, who won the third best costume design Oscar of her career for Cruella.

Zack Snyder triumphed in two new populist categories voted for by the public, which were introduced in a bid to attract a wider audience.

His zombie action movie Army of the Dead picked up the fan favourite prize, while the new Oscars Cheer Moment award went to Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Some stars acknowledged the war in Ukraine by wearing blue ribbons bearing the hashtag #WithRefugees in a campaign backed by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

The ceremony also held a moment of silence “to show our support for the people of Ukraine currently facing invasion, conflict and prejudice within their own borders”.

The show was hosted by a trio of US comic actresses – Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes. “This year the Academy hired three women to host because it was cheaper than hiring one man,” Schumer joked in their opening segment.

After three years without dedicated hosts, and following a subdued pandemic-affected ceremony last year, the trio and producer Will Packer succeeded in bringing entertainment value back to the ceremony – even before Will Smith stole the show.

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