The Telescope

I’m dreaming of black Oscars

“Tonight we celebrate Hollywood’s best and whitest, sorry…brightest.” Neil Patrick Harris’s first year hosting the Oscars was a controversial one. His self-conscious joke quickly won praise from critics and viewers for taking on the lack of diversity in the Academy head-on.

Glitz and glamour marked the 87th Annual Academy Awards held over the weekend at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California. Widely considered to be the most prestigious cinema awards ceremony in the world, it rebranded its title to ‘The Oscars’ from 2013.

This year, as always, featured high-end fashion and celebrated pure Hollywood narcissism. The night was accentuated by musical performances like Common and John Legend’s powerful rendition of Glory from the movie Selma, which proved to be a highlight.

The performance recognised not only the biggest hit among the best song nominees but also the most poignant. It sparked emotional rawness, triggering the biggest standing ovation of the night.The song was the only Oscars success for Selma, which had also been nominated for Best Picture amid continued reviews.

Common and John Legend after their win at the Oscars 2015.

Common and John Legend after their win at the Oscars 2015.

Analysis have swamped both local and internationally acclaimed platforms regarding the nomination snub of this particular film at the Oscars. The conversation streamed to rising concern over the honorary Academy Award and what it represents.

However, social media preceded in reacting to what has been termed as an all-white affair and perversely began poking fun on a rather serious issue. #Oscarsallwhite was the hashtag that had Twitter blazing on end.

Even Neil Patrick Harris, wasn’t left out as he took a selfie in front of this year’s nominees when they gathered for their traditional group photo. In the picture Harris tweeted “The lighting has washed out the faces of all of the nominees.” Captioning the image: “They all look so white,” further aggravating the already sensitive subject verged into what many called poor taste.

Film critics had a field day condemning the egregious omission that was sadly but not entirely surprising absence of Selma’s Ava Duvernay (director of the film) from the five contenders nominated for Best Director stirring mixed emotions.

They argued that she deserved the nomination citing that if her legacy is shaped by its Oscar-season controversy, there is fear that it will affect the artistic opportunities afforded to the African-American female director.

Selma Director Ava Duvernay

Selma Director Ava Duvernay

Over the years, honorary awards particularly in Hollywood have been marred by diversity problems which has long been the status quo.

Critics argue that every passing year people of colour who make it to the nominations are countable on one hand. In both gender and race, it has since felt like black actors have been making good inroads at awards ceremonies but still miss out on such esteemed nominations.

Raw statistics indicate that even after 86 years of the Oscars actuality, there have been very few numbers representing black people to write home about. It’s not lost to many that hard work resilience and sacrifice go into making a good film.

Therefore it’s impossible to divorce the many benefits that winning an Oscar comes with. Among them is money- you get to take home a heavy bill and easily demand a higher pay check on the next film. It’s also easier to get to the next job, not to mention worldwide recognition that attracts wide media coverage.It even gets easier for future films that get to feature the winner to get a green light on various opening platforms.

This resonates close to home where our film industry is a combination of a rich cultural heritage with new media and technological opportunities leading to the emergence of a new breed of film productions.

Unfortunately local actors and actresses are yet to see any improvements worth noting, specially in various awards ceremonies held in the country to applaud local content.With digital migration coming up, there’s a demand on local content that will trigger recognition of homegrown talent.

(This article was published on February 27,2015 on People Daily Kenya http://bit.ly/1x34zYx)

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