‘I’m First Patel to Win Oscar,’ Indian American Producer Joseph Patel Says at 94th Academy Awards

“This will please my mother. I am the first Patel ever to win an Oscar. So, I’m proud of that…,” said Indian American Joseph Patel during his excitement-laden speech in a sonorous voice that reverberated Dolby Theater, the venue for the 94th Academy Awards ceremony. Born to an immigrant couple from Gujarat, Joseph bagged the most coveted trophy for “Summer of Soul” in the Best Documentary Feature category. He coproduced the documentary, alongside Robert Fyvolent and David Dinnerstein.

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PC: Mike Coppala | TheGuardian.com

Joseph Patel’s Summer of Soul competed with “Writing with Fire”, India’s official entry to Oscar 2022. The documentary depicts the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a celebration of the African music culture in Manhattan, New York City. The Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of concerts, was in full swing from 1967 until the pop culture eclipsed it. The festival was a platform for the Black Pride, a movement by and for the black people embracing their African heritage in protest against the white racism and supremacy during the fag end of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Hence, Joseph Patel’s Oscar win is not just a new feather in the cap of Indian American community, but also a tribute to the marginalized people in Harlem.

The hopes for an Oscar that India’s 132-crore population had pinned on ‘Writing with Fire, lost it out to Indian-origin Joseph Patel. ‘Writing with Fire’ is a documentary on India’s only newspaper run by an all-women team from the underprivileged community of Dalits, formerly untouchables. The newspaper named Khabar Lahariya reports on hyperlocal issues, such as illegal mining, poor healthcare in remote villages, and police inaction in rape cases, which don’t find space in the mainstream media.

Brought up in San Francisco, Joseph Patel lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is a producer, director and writer with over two decades of experience in cinema, broadcasting, digital media and print journalism. He has an impressive body of work. He worked as a music journalist at the start of his career. He was the content head at Vevo, the world’s largest music video platform, prior to producing the Oscar-winning documentary. He also produced digital content for Vice Media, The Fader, Bomb, and MTV News & Docs. He earned a BAFTA award nomination for the same documentary.

Chris Rock called Joseph Patel a white guy when calling out the names of ‘Summer of Soul’ documentary’s producers and director from the card on stage. It irked Patel as he is proud of being one of the few South Asians to win an Oscar in the history of the Academy Awards. He slammed Chris Rock for overshadowing his South Asian identity and heritage by introducing him as one of the four white guys. He went on to criticize Smith on social media.

He is directing a documentary on the bestselling book, “Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop”, while rejoicing in moments of his Oscar win at the 94th Academy Awards.

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