These are thoughts I’ve been sitting on for a while now. Being a film buff (as well as having a BA in Film but who’s bragging) I like to think of myself as a ‘know it all’ when it comes to good and bad direction, writing, editing and camerawork etc etc. I’m a humble spectator and amateur critic in comparison to the big bodies on the Academy Committee so if I think that I know it all then surely they must know all the more?
Ok I’m rambling here.
The point I’m getting to is, how can they get it SO wrong year after year when it comes to nominations? We always refer to Leo DiCaprio as being the greatest tragedy of the Oscars however recently the greatest tragedy of all has FINALLY come to light: why are people of colour in Hollywood being consistently overlooked by the Academy Awards for their achievements? We all recall the shocking snub of last year’s nominations whereby Selma director Ava DuVernay missed out on even being shortlisted for a Best Director nomination.
Bearing in mind the Academy Awards is now in its 88th year:
- There have been only 18 best actor nominations for African American actors out of which, just 4 black actors have won
- There have been just 10 best actress nominations for African American actresses out of which, just 1 black actress has won
- 3 African American Directors have been nominated, 1 African American Editor nominated and none of these nominations received awards
Perhaps this was why Spike Lee was un-phased why the controversy finally hit the media.
For the second year running, no people of colour have been nominated in any categories at all.
I could go on, however I don’t really have the patience to continue to list the ways in which the Oscars have failed to recognize our achievements.
Chris Rock was quoted as saying that
“It’s [the Academy Awards] a white industry. Just as the NBA is a black industry I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing. It just is”.
A black friend of mine recently came to a similar conclusion during a heated debate the other day and trolls all over the Internet are pretty much saying the same by telling us all to get over it. Michael Caine reckons that black people in Hollywood should be patient – good things come to those who wait right? Moron. You wouldn’t say that to a black person who was consistently overlooked for a promotion.
Saturday Night Live got satire on point with their comedy sketch during the tornado’s eye of the controversy: https://youtu.be/ospx7tXWYbI and unfortunately, there is some truth in this sketch: Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom received only one nomination for the song at the end of the film written by a white guy (The Edge). A white guy only has to write a song (I’m not disputing that it was a good song by the way) to get recognised by the Academy and yet a group of amazingly talented black actors who perform to the justice of the lives they are portraying are given no recognition whatsoever.
This year’s Oscars have proven to be the most controversial on an epic scale. Black actors chose to boycott the Oscars like our brothers and sisters before us had to boycott the buses in the 1960s.
We feel as welcome in this business as those teenagers did at Little Rock High.
I’ve been watching How To Get Away With Murder (GREAT television series by the way! Definitely recommend it!!!) and in a direct quote from one of the episodes, one of the characters (of colour) says:
“White folks always bring up race when it suits them, never when it matters”.
Charlotte Rampling got herself into serious trouble by referring to the Oscar boycott as
“racism against white people”,
which she later claimed to be a misinterpretation of her original statement, however there are many people out there who concur with the statement the media printed as her words.
Race only seems to be a problem when the superior feel threatened:
Considering the Chair of the Academy – Cheryl Boone Isaacs – is a woman of colour, it is a concern that there is still more to be done within the industry. For this year’s ceremony, the cast of Straight Outta Compton were not even invited yet white screenwriters all received invitations.
Ice Cube stated that he wouldn’t have attended even if he was invited and Chris Rock made a similar comment in his opening speech during the Ceremony however, this is not some high school party we’re talking about, it’s the Oscars! It’s like not being invited to a work party Senior Management has thrown to reward the hard work of their employees whereas EVERYBODY else in the company has.
There have been comments on social media also stating that electing people of colour for the committee should be purely for talent and not just for box ticking – why should that even be a concept to argue? Surely that should go without saying. As Michael Jackson so aptly put it: it shouldn’t matter if you’re black or white. However unfortunately it does matter. Social media critics argue that Straight Outta Compton was snubbed due to the lack of relation the Committee would feel for such a film, however genre should not come into it. Since when do the Academy Awards specify genres in order to receive a nomination? It’s clearly about race.
Nobody is arguing the quality of talent of the actors, editors etc who have been nominated and a black friend of mine argued that it shouldn’t really be a big deal however, an award is not just about saying “well done”; it’s not a pat on the back either, it’s about recognition of achievement and recognition of that person’s contribution to something which is why it is hard to stomach the fact that black people are being ignored. And while it seems to be socially acceptable to feel enraged about the fact that Leo DiCaprio missed out on winning an Oscar for 25 years before finally getting his big win (perhaps Michael Caine is right after all…?! Well done by the way Leo!!!) yet when we bring up the fact that people of colour are suffering the same (and worse because most aren’t even receiving nominations) suddenly it’s about people of colour always finding something to whinge about and always using racism as an excuse to try and get what they want.
Perhaps we will see progress in the coming years; with three new seats being added to the Academy’s board of governors in the aim to improve diversity in leadership and voting rights stripped from those who have not been active in the industry for the past decade, perhaps stories like this year’s Oscars’ diversity outrage and boycott will be a thing of the past like the Bus Boycotts and ‘Sit ins’ of the 50s and 60s.
We are yet to see.