Four Oscars for Asia
In addition to Michelle Yeoh's award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Vietnamese Ke Huy Quan also received recognition from the Academy Awards for the same film, Everything Everywhere All at Once. Two statuettes were won by India for Best Original Song and Best Documentary Short Film.
Los Angeles (AsiaNews) - Four Oscars were won by Asia last night at the 95th Academy Awards. Michelle Yeoh, 60, a Malaysian actress of Chinese descent, is the first Asian woman to win the statuette for Best Actress in a Leading Role with "Everything Everywhere All at Once", a science fiction film that tells the story of a Chinese immigrant who owns a laundromat and struggles to make ends meet.
In the same film, the husband of protagonist Evelyn Wang, Waymond, is played by Ke Huy Quan, a Vietnamese actor who first fled to Hong Kong and then settled in the United States, who won the Best Supporting Actor award.
Two statuettes were won by India: one for best original song, with "Naatu Naatu", a composition from the Telugu-language film "RRR", which beat songs performed by stars such as Rihanna and Lady Gaga, and one for best short documentary film, won by "The Elephant Whisperers", which tells the story of a tribal couple caring for an orphaned elephant.
Yeoh, born in the city of Ipoh, capital of the Malaysian state of Perak, was awarded prizes in several beauty contests as a young girl and was a dancer for years. She achieved fame by acting in several Hong Kong films (learning Cantonese only later) alongside Jackie Chan, before landing in international cinemas thanks to 'Tomorrow Never Dies' - in which she played Asia's first 'Bond girl' - and 'The Tiger and the Dragon'.
In her acceptance speech at one point she said: 'Ladies, don't let anyone tell you that you are past your prime', a phrase from two Malaysian ministers, Hannah Yeoh and Nancy Shukri, who attended a special Oscar ceremony viewing event held in Kuala Lumpur and attended by friends and relatives of the actress.
Wee Ka Siong, president of the Malaysian Chinese Association - a political party of which the actress' father was also a member - also congratulated the fellow citizen.
In his acceptance speech, Ke Huy Quan, however, recalled that he was 'one who fled on a boat'. Born in Saigon, South Vietnam, in 1978 at the age of seven he had left Vietnam with his father for Hong Kong, while his mother and three other siblings had left for Malaysia.
The family was reunited in the US a year later: 'My journey started on a boat, I spent a year in a refugee camp and ended up here on the biggest stage in Hollywood. They say stories like that are only for the movies, but they are real stories, that's the real American dream,' said Quan, who began his career as a child starring in the film 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' alongside Harrison Ford, who presented him with the statuette.
For a long time, the former refugee had stopped acting, working mostly as an assistant director, but inspired by the success of "Crazy Rich Asians", a 2018 film, he said he wanted to give acting one last try at almost 50 years old.
"Naatu Naatu" (meaning "dance dance") is the first song from an Indian film to win an Oscar after it had already made history by winning a Golden Globe in January this year. "RRR", the film in which it can be heard and one of the most expensive in the history of Bollywood, tells the story of two (gradually deified) heroes fighting (sometimes very violently) for India's independence in 1920.
The Elephant Whisperers' is also the first Indian documentary to receive the award. The film tells the story of Bomman and Bellie, a tribal couple from the Kattunayakan community, who take care of an orphaned baby elephant.
Filmed in the picturesque Nilgiri Mountains in southern India, the film, by director Kartiki Gonsalves, explores the bond that is formed between humans and animals even after Raghu, the baby elephant, is separated from the tribals by the local authorities to be given to another caretaker. For generations, the indigenous Kattunayakan people have dedicated themselves to protecting the forests of the state of Tamil Nadu.