CODA, the critically acclaimed movie that was filmed in Gloucester and other North Shore towns, has been nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category. Troy Kostur, who plays a deaf fisherman, received a nod for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and director and screenwriter Sian Heder was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Kostur is only the second deaf actor – and the first male – to receive an Oscar nomination for acting. His CODA costar Marlee Matlin was the first deaf acting nominee, winning the award for her performance in the 1986 film Children of a Lesser God.
CODA is an American adaptation of a French film called La Famille Belier. When asked to direct the picture, Heder immediately imagined the story set in Gloucester, which she visited every summer while growing up.
The fictional story follows Ruby Rossi, played by English actor Emilia Jones, an 18-year-old who is the only hearing person in her immediate family. She is in her senior of high school, but also works the family fishing boat with her deaf father and brother (played by deaf actors Kostur and Daniel Durant), often acting as a sort of business liaison between them and the hearing world. When a choir director at school spots and encourages Ruby’s talent for singing, she must choose whether she should leave Gloucester to pursue music or stay in the family fold. The movie’s title is an acronym for “child of deaf adults,” a term that refers to children like Ruby, who are born into deaf households, are generally fluent in sign language, and identify with both deaf and hearing cultures.
North Shore residents were heavily involved in the filming. Gloucester Harbormaster T.J. Ciarametaro consulted on a scene involving the Coast Guard and ended up playing a small role in that scene. Fisherman Paul Vitale rented his boat to the production and shared his fishing knowledge with the cast. Businessman Sam Parisi appears briefly, handing over the keys to a waterfront warehouse.
The movie also features many North Shore spots, particularly on Cape Ann. A house in Essex stood in for the Rossis’ home, the state fish pier and waterfront buildings in Gloucester make frequent appearances, a bar scene goes down at Gloucester pub Pratty’s, and the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport acts as Boston’s Berklee College of Music in an audition scene.
When the film appeared at the Sundance Film Festival last year it sparked a bidding war that ended when Apple acquired it for $25 million, far and away the largest payday for a film coming out of the renowned festival.
CODA is available for streaming on AppleTV+.