Breaking News
More () »

Oscar-award-winning film with Cleveland ties shines light on AAPI community

Everything Everywhere All At Once took home seven Academy Awards Sunday night.

CLEVELAND — The Oscars on Sunday night saw Hollywood’s stars shining on one of entertainment’s biggest stages. But one film in particular stole the show. Everything Everywhere All At Once walked away with a whopping seven awards out of eleven nominations, including Best Picture.

The film centers around a family of Asian descent and its matriarch, navigating the multiverse in sci-fi style to protect her family.

Behind the scenes, the film has ties to Northeast Ohio. Producers Joe and Anthony Russo grew up in Cleveland, attending Benedictine High School. This isn’t the brothers’ first foray into film; they’re also the forces behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Endgame, among others.

Their former English teacher, Mark Francioli, remembers the brothers as funny and smart when they were students in the 80s in his classes and electives. Francioli recalls their interest in subject matter surrounding the humanities and self-expression, such as speech and debate and the literary magazine.

Francioli said during his classes, he would sometimes bring in classic films or film adaptations to show his students the way literature is translated into film.

“I think they got a kick out of seeing connections between let’s say literary point of view and what you do with a camera,” Francioli said of the brothers. “How does a camera become point of view parallel to what the writer is doing?”

Through the years, Francioli said the brothers have kept in touch, at one point early in their careers, even offering Francioli a small part in a movie. While it may have been decades since the brothers were in his classroom, Francioli is still proud of his former students.

“It was great, I think they deserved every one of those in a competitive field,” Francioli said of the awards the film received. “There were some really fine movies up for those Oscars, but it was exciting to see that as producers they got the right people to do the right things, and recognized talent.”

Michelle Yeoh, the film’s lead, was the first Asian woman to win the award for Best Actress. Her co-star, Ke Huy Quan, took home an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, making him the second actor of Asian descent to win the category, according to NBC News.

For those in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in Northeast Ohio, the film symbolizes progress, and hits home the importance of representation.

Cleveland based Chinese American filmmaker Johnny Wu has seen the challenges the AAPI community has faced in receiving positive portrayals and roles in the film industry, but said there is change happening.

“For me personally, it’s very exciting to see this happening, and see that we’ve got a chance, we’ve got a chance to be out there, breaking the glass ceiling, and being out there winning awards,” Wu said. “I’m very sure that many AAPI filmmakers in the country will be ecstatic, and be excited to be able to participate and make great films that can represent us and be out there and winning awards.”

The film, playing an important role in promoting representation for Wu.

“When I watched it, I was having tears in my eyes, because this is something you don’t see happen at all until now,” he said of the film and the recognition it received at the Oscars.

Wu said he was also able to connect to the film, and felt the same pressures as the daughter character, navigating the cultural and familial aspects of the AAPI community.

Jenika Gonzales’ family is from the Philippines, herself, her mother and siblings coming to the United States over the course of years. For her, the film offered a look into the immigrant experience.

“As an immigrant myself, and having an immigrant mom, this moment is really validating for every immigrant parent who made that sacrifice,” Gonzales said. “In the movie, there’s that scene in the end with Michelle and Stephanie where you could feel the pain. And I think for immigrant families, there has been that silent pain that they both had to endure. With moving here and migrating and navigating the world, this world, in a different language, I think also communicating with our parents gets lost in that narrative, and gets lost in the pressure of this society. So I think the movie very much captures that complicated love and complicated sacrifice of an immigrant parent and immigrant daughter.”

Gonzales is a graphic designer in Cleveland, and is also a volunteer with Ohio Progressive Asian Women’s Leadership, which Gonzales said aims to lift up AAPI voices, women and nonbinary people in Ohio.

“Representation really does matter, and I think it’s larger than most people often think it is,” Gonzales said.

While the accolades and recognition are important, Gonzales also noted that members of the AAPI community have always been present and hard at work across industries, working even without recognition.

“I’m very optimistic that there’s going to be more room for people and more curiosity to know the complicated parts of each community, and I think, if anything, it starts that conversation,” she said.

Before You Leave, Check This Out