Troy Kotsur and his fellow "CODA" castmates can’t wait to return to Gloucester and celebrate their Oscar wins with the community who supported the film's creation.
“Gloucester, I really miss you. I miss all the Popeyes and fishermen out there. I'm just so grateful for the entire community of Gloucester and their support to make our film happen. Without you, I wouldn't be here today,” Kostur told GBH News through an interpreter. “We're going to bring our Oscars to share and celebrate with you all in Gloucester.”
Kotsur’s phone has been “vibrating off the hook” with supportive messages from other people in the Deaf community since his historic win at the Academy Awards on Sunday. He became the first deaf man to win an acting Oscar for his role as a Gloucester fisherman. His win is resonating with the local Deaf community.
“And really, it's been so touching. I feel so blessed and of course, extremely proud,” he said, reflecting on his whirlwind of a week. “It feels like there's a great energy, a great positivity that finally Hollywood's accepting a new perspective.”
In his acceptance speech on Sunday, Kotsur dedicated the award to the Deaf community, the CODA community, which stands for “child of deaf adults” and the disabled community. “This is our moment,” he said.
He hopes “CODA”’s success, and the spotlight generated by its win at the Oscars this week,can spur Hollywood to tell more stories about underrepresented communities.
“I've seen what the community has been through. I've seen what the Deaf community and disabled community have been through and the many struggles and barriers that they've had to overcome,” he said. “And I've seen Hollywood just have so much fear and not be ready to tell these stories and just not know what to do with these people.”
Opeoluwa Sotonwa, who heads the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, said watching the film with his CODA children was a powerful moment, as was watching Kotsur’s speech at the Oscars.
“Seeing Troy give that moving and emotional speech — it brought people to tears,” Sotonwa said through an interpreter. ”And that people were picking up little aspects of Deaf culture, of the language, to the point where the applause converted to Deaf applause, right… having that spread and people picking up and doing that applause was incredible.”
WATCH: "CODA" stars Troy Kotsur and Daniel Durant reflect on historic wins at Oscars
Kostur’s co-star Daniel Durant, who plays his son in “CODA,” hopes the film’s success this week will spur more inclusion in Hollywood, and create excitement in a new generation.
“And when all this happened, the first thing I thought about is, this is for the Deaf community, like Troy said,” Durant said through an interpreter. “This is for all of you, everyone. It's for all the kids watching us and seeing us win, so they know that they can do whatever they want to do. It doesn't matter if they're deaf or not.”
That is exactly what Jennifer Greenfield, the assistant head of school for Boston Public Schools’ Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, is hoping to see happen. She said through an interpreter it was exciting to see so much Deaf representation on screen. She thinks the film can have “a ripple effect” and open up more opportunities for the students she works with.
“I think the Deaf community … we feel quite satisfied, recognized and grateful to show a positive identity about our language and our culture,” Greenfield said.
“CODA,” a remake of a 2014 French film about a hearing daughter in a deaf family, was in many ways an unlikely Oscars winner. It first premiered at Sundance in 2021 and was later acquired by Apple, making it the first movie from a streaming service to win the top prize. It’s also the first and only winner to feature a predominantly deaf cast.
“CODA” won all three awards for which it was nominated: best picture, best supporting actor and best adapted screenplay, which went to Cambridge native Sian Heder, who spent summers in Gloucester as a kid.
“I want people to remember … it's a small-budget movie and they cast authentic actors. And we made a brilliant story and we showed a piece of Deaf culture and we got all the way to the end, all the way to the Oscars, from Sundance to the finish line,” Durant said. “So it shows the world that it doesn't matter who you are, if you're an artist and you do it authentically and you cast properly and behind the camera as well, you can show a story and change people's lives.”