When 12 years a Slave won the Oscar for Best Picture, it made history, becoming the first movie from a black director, Steve McQueen, to win the film industry’s highest honor in 86 years. The Academy Awards, whose membership includes more than 6,000 artists, and professionals, continues to lack racial diversity. The article Hollywood Blackout: An African American Struggle highlights this concern.
In pictures: Scenes from the motion picture 12 Years A Slave nominated for 9 Academy Awards including Best Picture
There is progress, however, African American filmmakers feel that a balance in racial equality within Hollywood remains slow. African American filmmaker and producer Leslie Saltus Evans says,
“Since, 12 Years a Slave won best picture, I would like to hope that it would help not just African American Writers, Directors but all above and below the line Cast and Crew to be considered for various projects in Film or Television based on their track record; it’s happening slowly but surely. I am glad to see the surge of film and TV projects with African Americans in lead roles in front of and behind the camera.”
When actress Luptia Nyong’o accepted her award for Best Supporting Actress, she became only the 7th black female to win an Academy Award in 86 years.
According to the 2013 statistical data presented by leeandlow.com, in the 85 years of the Academy Awards, black actors received less than 4% of acting Oscars.
In 1939, Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Oscar. In 1963, 24 years later Sidney Poitier became the first African-American male awarded an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. In the Academy’s 86 years, only 15 blacks have received Academy Awards for acting. Denzel Washington received the Oscar in years 1989 and 2001.
12 Years a Slave is the first Best Picture Oscar awarded a black director.
In a Seattle Times article, McQueen dedicated the honor of his win to those who suffered slavery and “the 21 million who still endure slavery today.”
12 Years A Slave Wins Best Picture at the 86th Academy Awards held at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, March 2, 2014, in Los Angeles
“Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live,” said McQueen, who promptly bounced into the arms of his cast. “This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup.”
Recently announced is the remake of the classic film, Annie. Quvenzhané Wallis a nine-year-old African American actress is cast as the lead. Her performance in the 2012 critically acclaimed film, Beats of the Southern Wild, Quvenzhané became the youngest actress ever to receive this honor. Best Actor Oscar winner Jamie Foxx plays the rich politician who adopts Annie, and Cameron Diaz as Ms. Hannigan. With a richly cultural blended cast, The Guardian reports that the film before its release has received a massive amount of racial slanders on Twitter.
“I will be glad when it doesn’t matter about your skin color but more about your ability and experience. But my hope is that African Americans would continue with this current surge and expand into all formats of programming, like Univision for example, to collaborate more and work together to get the projects we would like to see on the screen”, states Saltus Evans. “There are more opportunities now than it was 20 years ago so there is some progress but we have some way to go.”
During his speech at the 2000 Image Awards Steven Spielberg, stated,
“There’s a lot to be done in the world we share. We still must acknowledge the painful absence of racial diversity within our very own industry. We need to hire studio executives of color. We need to foster young minority talent, both in front of and behind the scenes. Obviously, our world still needs to work on the issue of racial discrimination.”
Hollywood, as well as our nation, continues to struggle with embracing racial diversity.
Republished from 3/2014