Oscars Remix: 9 Coming-of-Age Films About People Who Aren’t White Males

By Jamilah King Feb 20, 2015

When #OscarsSoWhite started trending on Twitter last month, it wasn’t just about the overwhelmingly white pool of nominees. People used the hashtag to call attention to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ structural problem with its voters.

As Vox recently reported, the vast majority of Oscar voters are white men in their sixties. Those voters are, on average, 94 percent white, 77 percent male and roughly two years away from most senior-citizens discounts. And the films that they celebrate are–predictably–stories about white men. 

Meanwhile, the average age of viewers is about 30, and a 2014 report published by the Motion Picture Association of America found that Latinos are going to the movies more than any other racial or ethnic group in the country, relative to their population.

That reality hasn’t swayed those in power at one of Hollywood’s most venerable institutions. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first black woman to lead the Academy, has said that the Oscars don’t have a diversity problem "at all."

While the Academy has been reluctant to admit its structural shortcomings, the proof is in this year’s nominees. The only notable film starring people of color is Ava Duvernay’s "Selma," which earned a nomination for Best Picture. But even then, critics point out, the only films by and starring people of color to earn the Academy’s recognition are historical dramas, while white actors and directors often have the freedom to play out the range of their human experience.

Sparked by the coming-of-age theme in Oscar favorite "Boyhood," we’ve listed nine films about growing up that focus on people who are not white and male.

Raising Victor Vargas (2002)

Viewers get a glimpse into the life of a Dominican-American teenager living on New York City’s Lower East Side. Girl-crazy and immature, Victor tries his best tries his best to save face after a string of rejections.


The Joy Luck Club (1993)

Based on Amy Tan’s award-winning 1989 book with the same name, "The Joy Luck Club" is a first-of-its kind look at relationships between Asian-American mothers and daughters. 


Quinceañera (2006)

Magdalena, a Mexican-American 14-year-old, is standing in the shadow of her much wealthier cousin on the eve of her quinceañera, and she’s facing more than her share of heartache. Her older brother’s been kicked out of the house for being gay, she gets pregnant and her neighborhood is being rapidly gentrified by monied, white newcomers. Watch how she navigates it all and keeps her head above water.


Crooklyn (1994)

Spike Lee came home to make what’s arguably one of his best films about 9-year-old Troy, the only girl in a family of four wild brothers. The film shines a light on what it was like growing up in 1970’s, black and brown Brooklyn.


Smoke Signals (1998)

Based on a screenplay written by award-winning Native American author Sherman Alexie, this film examines the uneasy friendship between quiet, reserved Thomas and outgoing Arnold on the Coeur d’Alene reservation in Idaho.


Mosquita y Mari (2012)

In this teenage love story, two Mexican-American girls growing up in Los Angeles learn about friendship and heartbreak.


Boyz N Tha Hood (1991)

A John Singleton classic, this Oscar-nominated film looks at life for four black men growing up in South Central Los Angeles during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic. 


Brother to Brother (2004)

One of Anthony Mackie’s early films, "Brother to Brother" focuses on a gay black man’s struggle to come to terms with his sexuality and his budding friendship with a legendary writer from the Harlem Renaissance. 


Girlhood (2015)

This highly anticipated film is about working class African-French girls growing up in a Paris project is being described as a counterpoint to "Boyhood."