When Diversity And Movies Collide, They Can Tell Powerful Stories And Still Win Awards

The Oscar-winning "Crash" is a prime example, but it's not alone.

Opening our minds to diverse perspectives, cultures, and experiences can only help us grow our personal understanding of the world. Often, movies help drive those narratives that influence how we see others who are different from us. Though it's completely up to individuals whether or not they accept those representations, and grow together or apart from their diverse neighbors as a result, everyone's stories deserve to be heard.

One story in particular — the 2004 film and Oscar-winning Best Picture Crash — created a vehicle of inclusion, giving space to experiences from a variety of perspectives, including multiple from the Black, White, Latino, Asian, and Middle Eastern communities. By carefully exploring individual viewpoints influenced by ignorance, cultural nuances, language barriers, and prejudices, the film allowed the stories to unfold on equal ground. From police brutality, Black-on-Black crime, racism, systemic oppression, and hateful rhetoric, the Paul Haggis-directed movie touches on issues that, sadly, still ring true today.

But films like Crash could alleviate some of those stereotypes people apply to groups, some of which came to life on the screen. Moments such as when a wealthy White woman accused her Mexican locksmith of being a "gang member" who planned to sell a copy of her keys to his "homeboy" the minute he walked out her door. Or seeing a Black man driving a shiny Escalade as the accomplished television producer he is and not a thug. What about the Middle Eastern convenience store owner who bought a gun for protection and not "jihad"? Or the successful Black man telling the young Black man robbing him how disappointed he was without truly knowing what drove him to a life of crime? 

There were plenty of tense moments in the film — along with some that shock and will break your heart — but it also makes a point at how divisive and disruptive these issues are, as well as how trivial they are in the grand scheme of things. 

With current events stoking fear, division, hate crimes, and nationwide demonstrations aimed at ending the dissonance — much of which plays out in Crash — it's hard to argue how hearing diverse perspectives and dialoguing about them isn't important. In fact, it seems to be more important than ever.  

Diversity is what makes America great, and this racially and ethnically diverse nation is projected to be even more so in the coming decades, according to the Pew Research Center.

"By 2055, the U.S. will not have a single racial or ethnic majority. Much of this change has been (and will be) driven by immigration," the 2016 research states. "More Americans say immigrants strengthen the country than say they burden it, and most say the U.S.'s increasing ethnic diversity makes it a better place to live."

That diversity should also be reflected in America's films. 

But unlike in the movie, let's not wait until "we crash into each other so we can feel something," as Don Cheadle's character said in Crash, when we can open our hearts and minds to embrace the differences that enrich our lives today. With the help of movies that tell stories that reflect the country's varying cultures and increase our understanding of those who may be different from us, we might find we have much more in common than we think.

Crash, along with winning Best Picture, also won the Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing, and was nominated for Best Director and Matt Dillion for Best Supporting Actor. During Sunday's Academy Awards, a new breed of award-winning films based on the viewpoints of diverse groups could carry the torch, thanks to Best Picture nominees Hidden Figures, Lion, Fencesand Moonlight.

Check out the trailer for "Crash" below:

"Crash" isn't alone in telling these types of stories. Below are four more Oscar-winning Best Picture films, which tell stories from the perspectives of diverse groups and individuals:

1. "12 Years a Slave" (2014)

A free Black man from upstate New York in the pre-Civil War United States is abducted and sold into slavery. After 12 years, he has a chance meeting that forever alters his life. 

2. "Slumdog Millionaire" (2009)

A teen in Mumbai is accused of cheating on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? While professing his innocence, he's forced to reflect on his upbringing in the slums.

3. "Schindler's List" (1994)

In German-occupied Poland during World War II, Oskar Schindler — a successful businessman from Czechoslovakia — hopes to use the cheap labor force of Jews to manufacture enamelware for the German military. For many of the skilled inmates, making "Schindler's List" meant the difference between life and death. 

4. "Gandhi" (1983)

Through non-violent protests, Mahatma Gandhi worked for the rights of all Indians in South Africa in 1893. His campaign eventually led to Britain granting India's independence. 

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