The latest “Harry Potter” franchise film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” just made Oscars history last night. It’s the first film in the HP series to ever win an Oscar–which is not only a big deal for the franchise (and for children and young adult film genre as a whole), but it’s particularly cool because of its Jewish roots. The film was one of the few major fantasy films marketed to kids and young adults with a Jewish focus.
The film won an Oscar for Best Costume Design (which went to Colleen Atwood)–it was also nominated for Best Production Design. Backstage, Atwood said the fact that this was the franchise’s first win may have been a result of the time period it was set, which visually set the film apart. She told Entertainment Weekly:
“[It’s] shocking. Because there’s so much incredible kind of artistry in the Harry Potter movies. I think maybe the fact that this movie is set in the 1920s, which kind of keyed off a different sort of visual sense.”
It’s interesting that Atwood said that, considering the film focuses on the Goldsteins–the only Jewish family to get major attention in the Potter world (and in the popular fantasy genre as a whole). Three of the main characters are also presumably Jewish: Tina and Queenie Goldstein, who work for The Magical Congress of the United States, and possibly Jacob Kowalski, a World War I veteran who wants to open a bakery on the Lower East Side (using recipes from his Jewish bubbe, maybe? He also may be Polish, a matter of some debate).
As I’ve written about before, the film itself couldn’t come at a better time politically, considering it’s all about the rise of anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia–and J.K. Rowling’s favorite theme, fear of difference. While the film is set in the wizarding world, it explores these themes literally and metaphorically–and the storyline parallels that of the Holocaust, making it a great film to help teach your kids about anti-Semitism–and start a dialogue on racism and its effects.
Check out two clips from the movie below (it’s kind of one of my favorite movies ever, not gonna lie):