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What's Next For The Most Socially Conscious Oscar Winners And Nominees

"As those who are leaders are acting more like bullies, in the creative and artistic industry, it's our job to push back and say, 'No, that's not okay.'" —Zootopia director Rich Moore

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On the Oscars red carpet Feb. 26, BuzzFeed News asked writers, directors, producers, and actors from socially conscious nominated films whether the current political climate changed how they felt about their work. Here are their slightly edited responses:

Moana directors Ron Clements and John Musker and producer Osnat Shurer

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Moana, which earned two nominations, features a Polynesian teen girl hero.

SHURER, on having a woman of color as a protagonist: "It's suddenly become weirdly radical. It shouldn't be radical, but it suddenly is, and I'm really glad for it. I stand behind it all the way. ... Both of these guys have a track record of making films that are uplifting. They're in different worlds, but they're uplifting, and I think we all have that commitment: Make films that uplift, that make you feel good with heart and humor, but also might make you think about something. That's really important to all of us."

CLEMENTS: "We spent a lot of time in the Pacific Islands; we did a lot of research. The people we met, we were so moved by. The culture that we experienced there is very much in terms of interconnectedness and cooperation, and people wanting to help everyone else. I feel like, myself, that's a really good philosophy. It's a philosophy we tried to incorporate into the movie, and I hope that comes through."

MUSKER: "One of the things we learned in the Pacific is they think of the ocean as something that connects people, not divides them. So in this time, a movie that celebrates connection seems like a very valuable thing for the world."

Moonlight star Trevante Rhodes

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Moonlight, a film about a impoverished black queer boy growing up in Miami, was nominated for eight awards and picked up three, including Best Picture.

RHODES: "It's hard for me to be happy and to really appreciate this moment right now, understanding where we are as a people. ... I love the film, and I love the people involved with the film so much. So it's a really unique juxtaposition. I try to separate certain moments and certain sensations in life so that I can enjoy this but also not lose sight of what really matters. ... I have to always follow my heart. I have to always follow what is on the page. If it speaks to me, if it resonates with me, then I'll go with that. I want to continue to tell stories that are socially relevant, and that do help, but I also understand what the industry is, and I understand what I need to have people actually want to go see the movies."

Zootopia directors Rich Moore and Byron Howard

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Zootopia won Best Animated Feature. Using animals as a metaphor, it confronted bigotry.

HOWARD: "We made the film over a period of about five years, and so, years ago when we started it, we didn't know that the world would get so divisive. The fact that the film came out a year ago, and people are still talking about the message of inclusion, diversity... that feeling of hope is what we were hoping people would take away from the film after they saw it."

MOORE: "After working on a film like Zootopia that has such a strong message at its core, and then also, with the political climate, the social climate that we live in today, I don't know how I could just go on to the next thing, 'Oh, we're just gonna do a funny movie.' Or, 'Oh, we're just gonna do a light musical.' It's kind of our job right now. As those who are leaders are acting more like bullies, in the creative and artistic industry, it's our job to push back and say, 'No, that's not okay.' We do that by the stories we tell and the themes that we explore. The combination of Zootopia and how the world is right now makes me really want to double down on having something even deeper to say with my work."


Arrival producers Aaron Ryder and Dan Levine

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Arrival, which is in part the story of a grave international crisis narrowly averted by open-minded communication and optimism, was nominated for eight Oscars.

LEVINE: "When we started developing this five and a half years ago, it had that same message. We just happened to come out at a time when it was even more relevant, and really important to people. ... I will say this, though: It does give you faith in your own convictions."

RYDER: "You've gotta look at the time that we're in right now — it's a movie about people working well together, and acceptance, communication, miscommunication. It's part of everyday conversation: People are gonna go in, see a movie like this, they come out of it, and they talk about it. That can only be a good thing. ... You just gotta tell good stories."

Toni Erdmann director Maren Ade

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Toni Erdmann was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.

ADE: "I think what cinema can do is — I don't know, it's limited. You cannot change the world with a film. But there's no other medium that can take you so into other people's heads and transform what has maybe been unfamiliar — something like compassion. But I think there's no obligation now to do political films. It's more important to be political in real life."

The White Helmets producer Joanna Natasegara and director Orlando von Einsiedel

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The White Helmets, a documentary about rescue workers in Syria and Turkey, won Best Documentary (short subject). A cinematographer on the film, Khaled Khatib, had recently been barred from entering the US to attend the awards.

NATASEGARA: "We've probably always hoped that our work is important, but yes, this year has made us feel more dedicated than ever to our work, and to showing the stories of the people that we make films about."

VON EINSIEDEL: "We're really upset. This was a night to celebrate, and recognize the heroes of the White Helmets, and it would have been fantastic to have Khatib here, but also to have his voice here. The world is so divided at the moment: There's so much misunderstanding about people from the Middle East and Muslims in general, and Khatib is a Syrian, and his voice would have been really important to be here, for America."

Hidden Figures producer Donna Gigliotti and Hidden Figures author Margot Lee Shetterly

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Hidden Figures, a historical drama about black women mathematicians who worked at NASA during the space race, was nominated for three Academy Awards.

GIGLIOTTI: "It makes it a little more urgent, but I've always had the fever on me to make films that are immediate and relevant. The climate makes it maybe a little more intense, but I continue to do what I always do."

SHETTERLY: "The thing about a story like this is it's evergreen, regardless of the political climate. I think what the story — one of the things it's about is who gets to call themselves American, and the greatness of our country, even when there are difficulties in the country. Because we're struggling with a lot of those issues now, this is a movie that really reminds us that America is e pluribus unum. We are, from many, one America, and when we come together, we can do amazing things."

13th director Ava DuVernay

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13th, a film about mass incarceration in the US and its ties to institutionalized racism, was nominated for Best Documentary Feature.

DUVERNAY: "I've always been thinking about this stuff, regardless. I think it'll change what some people do, but I've always been in this mind-state. My second film I ever made, Middle of Nowhere in 2012, was all about mass incarceration. Selma, obviously dealing with civil rights issues. So I'll continue to do more of the same."